Over the next couple of weeks you’ll hear lots of theories about why TV ratings are surging for the NBA playoffs.
Of course it helps that large TV markets with storied franchises (Boston and Los Angeles) are still alive and favorites to make the NBA Finals. And, yes, it helps that the league’s two most successful franchises over the last five years (San Antonio and Detroit) are competing against the Lakers and the Celtics.
The conference finals are littered with big stars, too. Kobe, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili, Rasheed Wallace and all the rest could make up an all-star team that the rest of the league couldn’t beat.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors contributing to the ratings numbers that TNT, ESPN and ABC keep bragging about in nearly daily press releases.
The NBA has been experiencing a resurgence ever since the Suns traded for Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, the Mavericks got hoodwinked into snagging Jason Kidd and the Cavaliers picked up new spare parts for LeBron.
But there’s one issue driving improved ratings that likely won’t be touched by all the NBA talking heads on TNT and ESPN.
Tattoos. Or rather the lack of tattoos in the conference finals.
Part of the reason more people are watching these playoffs is because the average fan isn’t constantly repulsed by the appearance of most of the players on the court. Most of the key players left in the playoffs don’t look like recent prison parolees.
The only accurate way to describe Garnett, Pierce, Duncan, Allen, Manu, Parker and even Kobe is “clean cut.” Yeah, there are a couple of tattoos in that group — Duncan has something on his back, Kobe still has his post-rape-allegation tat — but the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics have far less ink on average than your typical NBA franchise.