The Los Angeles Lakers' first game since Kobe Bryant's death was the second-most watched regular-season NBA game on ESPN.
The game Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers averaged 4.41 million viewers. The only telecast to surpass that since ESPN resumed NBA coverage in 2002-03 was a January 2003 game between the Lakers and Houston Rockets that featured the first matchup between Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming (4.88 million).
Lakers, Fans Pay Touching Pre-Game Tribute to Kobe Bryant
According to Nielsen, the Bryant pregame ceremony averaged 5.23 million viewers. The audience peaked at 6.07 million between 10:45 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern, which was the conclusion of the ceremony and the start of the game.
By comparison, a game between Houston and the Denver Nuggets scheduled during a similar time slot last year averaged 1.6 million.
The "Hoop Streams" pregame — which was streamed between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern — had a record 2.4 million views, according to the network. The show is streamed on ESPN.com and its app as well as Twitter and YouTube.