The NBA cannot often boast beating the NFL in the ratings war, but Thursday's night spectacle in which LeBron James returned to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers for the first time as a member of the Miami Heat did the trick. According to TNT, which broadcast the game, Heat vs. Cavs drew an overnight 5.0 rating nationwide and a 25.9 rating in Cleveland.
The NFL's Thursday night Texans vs. Eagles game on NFL Network drew an overnight 4.1 rating, according to USA Today. TNT reaches far more households than NFL Network, however, and the NBA game peaked during player introductions as viewers were most interested in how Cleveland would greet LeBron. (Answer: boos, not surprisingly.)
The NBA's 5.0 rating translates to roughly 5.8 million viewers in the United States. The game's 25.9 rating in Cleveland means that more than a quarter of the city's households were tuned in. By comparison, the contest drew just a 14.9 rating in the Miami market.
LeBron's return was nowhere near Michael Jordan's 1995 return from retirement in terms of ratings. MJ's first game back from his stint in baseball's minor league registered a 10.9 rating for NBC, and remains the highest-rated NBA regular season game of all-time.