Zion Williamson’s highly-anticipated debut for the New Orleans Pelicans on July 5 set a record for the highest-rated NBA Summer League game ever.
The Pelicans’ encounter with the New York Knicks in Las Vegas – which was stopped in the fourth quarter because of an earthquake in Southern California that could be felt in Nevada – drew a 1.2 metered market rating on ESPN.
This was up 33 per cent from the previous Summer League record, set in 2017 when Lonzo Ball made his debut for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics. The game was also up 200 per cent from last year’s comparable game – the Dallas Mavericks v the Phoenix Suns – which delivered a 0.4 metered market rating.
New Orleans, not surprisingly, was the top local market in the United States for the telecast, with a 7.0 rating.
With fans eager to see the NBA’s No. 1 overall Draft pick Williamson take on his former Duke University teammate and current Knick RJ Barrett, the game at the 17,500-seat Thomas & Mack Center was a sellout, with tickets commanding more than $500 (€445) on the resale markets.
Williamson’s performance against the Knicks was both his first and last in the Summer League, however. After picking up a bruised knee in the game, the Pelicans decided to pull him out of the remainder of the tournament as a precautionary measure.
The NBA has added the Chinese and Croatian national teams to this year’s Summer League in order to help expand the league’s global footprint.