|Friday, December 13
Updated: July 22, 5:57 PM ET
'King' James proves a ratings bonanza for ESPN2
By Darren Rovell
LeBron James' performance on Thursday night helped his St. Vincent-St. Mary team beat the No. 1 team in the nation, but it also helped ESPN2 achieve its highest rating in almost two years.
The network garnered a 1.97 rating, which is equivalent to about 1.67 million homes.
"Obviously thanks to LeBron, it attracted a lot of attention," said Dave Nagle, a spokesman for ESPN. Nagle said it was "too early to say" if future St. Vincent-St. Mary's games will be broadcast by the network.
It was the highest rating since ESPN2's broadcast of RPM2Night on Feb. 18, 2001 -- the day Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500 -- when the network received a 2.15 rating, which was equivalent to 1.61 million homes.
The 17-year old James, who is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, dazzled the crowd of 11,523 at Cleveland State University and many watching the game on television with no-look passes and monster dunks. James scored 31 points, had 13 rebounds and six assists as his No. 23-ranked team defeated Oak Hill Academy 65-45.
Nagle said the broadcast was the third highest rated basketball game in ESPN2's history. Two North Carolina-Duke games drew a 3.0 and a 2.9 rating. It was the first time ESPN broadcast a high school game in 13 years.
Ten St. Vincent-St. Mary games are being showed on Pay-Per-View on Time Warner in Northeast Ohio. The pay-per-view costs $7.95 and is available in 600,000 homes in 14 counties.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.email@example.com.