Orlando Magic's Game 7 won the sports day on TV on Sunday

The Orlando Magic spent much of their season outside of the national spotlight. Their showing in Game 7 on TV (if not on the court) is a good sign they have some national appeal.
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic had a strong playoff showing and it was reflected in the TV ratings for Game 7. The Magic-Cavs game won the day Sunday.
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic had a strong playoff showing and it was reflected in the TV ratings for Game 7. The Magic-Cavs game won the day Sunday. / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Orlando Magic fans spent much of the season frustrated over the team's lack of national television appearances and appreciation.

While typically the number one pick in the draft generates some interest and national TV appearances, the Magic's lone chance to be on TNT was taken away from them early in Paolo Banchero's rookie season thanks to Chet Holmgren's injury. No replacement was given and Banchero won the Rookie of the Year with a historic rookie season largely in anonymity.

Victor Wembanyama meanwhile got nearly 20 appearances on national TV with a San Antonio Spurs team that was among the worst in the league this season. There was, at least, a perception that Banchero was the number one pick in a weak draft year.

Magic fans knew better.

Despite a strong showing to end the season, the Orlando Magic received only one national TV game — a February date with Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder once again. Orlando used the occasion to celebrate Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement.

But even the Magic's arrival in the postseason did not do much to give them national attention. Their playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers was largely relegated to NBA TV and secondary channels. The only two games on traditional national TV —Games 1 and 4— were played at the enviable time slot of 1 p.m.

It was not until the series became the only one to reach seven games in the first round that it was forced onto the national spotlight.

Magic Game 7 drew plenty of attention from viewers

And while the battle between these two up-and-coming teams did not feature a traditional ratings draw, Game 7 was still the most-viewed sporting event on Sunday, beating even an American-based Formula 1 race fairly easily.

According to SportsMediaWatch.com, the Magic's Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers averaged a 2.4 rating and 4.32 million viewers on ABC on Sunday. According to them, that was slightly down from the New York Knicks-Miami Heat Game 1 in the same window last year (a 2.9 rating and 5.38 million viewers). But considering the Knicks and Heat are more well-known brands, that is a seemingly significant showing.

Especially considering how the league seemed to sideline this particular series throughout the first round.

The ratings could have received a small boost as the lead in to the Miami Grand Prix, one of three Formula 1 races in the United States during the calendar year. While that race saw the largest U.S. audience for an F1 race at 2.9 million viewers, the Magic-Cavs game still eclipsed it easily.

Even though ratings for the NBA are still down slightly, this was still a big win for the league on the day. Especially considering the series that capped off the first round Sunday afternoon was the least-watched (probably by design) in the first round.

The league is still working to establish new stars. This first round very much became about a changing of the guard. But, as expected, Sports Media Watch reports ratings were down a little less than 10 percent from last year. They were still flat compared to 2022, however.

The fact that a Magic-Cavs Game 7 (certainly boosted by the stakes) performed this well is certainly encouraging for the league.

The Magic deserve more games on national TV

The Magic hope that the strong showing on such a big stage and their statement to the rest of the league of their arrival in this series means the league believes in them enough to be on national TV more. Getting to a Game 7 and having an all-star in Paolo Banchero average 27.0 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game in the Playoffs with 38 points in a Game 7 should be enough to get the league interested in this team.

The Magic will have to wait until the schedule officially comes out in August to see how much the league wants to feature the Magic on the national TV schedule. They should certainly get more than one game on traditional national TV this time around.

But a good showing in Game 7 —not to mention a 1.2 rating and 2.2 million viewers for the 1 p.m. slot in Game 1 and 0.8 rating and 1.4 million viewers for the 1 p.m. slot in Game 4 (both the worst of the four games on the Saturday slate) — certainly suggests the league should be investing more in promoting one of its brightest young stars.

Time will tell how the NBA views these numbers and the potential in the Magic as a future TV draw. At some point, the league will have to trust its ability to build and develop new stars. That is something the first round should be teaching them.

But the league can sit happy at how Game 7 performed. Just as the Magic can be proud of their showing in their first Playoffs.