Mike Kahn of Fox Sports has an interesting look at the Celtics/Lakers Finals impact on the league. He quotes some telling ratings stats:
Just a year earlier, the Finals had been disastrous -- a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers by the San Antonio Spurs with the worst Nielsen ratings in NBA Finals history.
The numbers told the story of what it meant to the NBA fan, with a 50 percent increase in ratings from the 2007 Finals -- the highest rated Finals since 2004.
And he goes on to describe the problems that plagued the league last year:
all the hoopla did at least temporarily put to rest any number of issues that had besieged the NBA before last season even began. The federal gambling scandal of referee Tim Donaghy threatened to tear the game apart, with all eyes on officials throughout the season. Stern staunchly defended the rest of the crew and worked on reconstructing the office of officiating.
But there was more. The horrendous handling of the Seattle SuperSonics franchise after 41 years being uprooted and moved to Oklahoma City also created a pall over the league, with Stern seemingly more concerned about revenues from abroad than the broken franchise model in the U.S. It not only created the destruction of the Sonics, but threatened franchises in Memphis, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta, Indiana and Milwaukee, among others.
On came the Celtics and Lakers. No, we didn't see Sam Jones and Jerry West battling it out, nor were there Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. We weren't going to see Magic and Larry either ... but they were certainly around.
Essentially, it took the edge off for Stern and the league, finally. It became time to ignore this perception of a thug league -- real or perceived -- and back to traditional basketball.