Bryant, LeBron

Even at their worst, the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the more popular teams in the NBA, and certainly one, hate ’em or love ’em, that is very intriguing to watch, making them appear on national television next season more than the NBA champions Miami Heat.

The Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks both lead the way with 33 nationally televised games next season, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder with 30, and then the Lakers with 29. The Heat? “Only” 27 times on national TV.

But while being the NBA champions should help you be considered a ratings magnet, not to mention a superstar like LeBron James, the Lakers are something else. They still have Kobe Bryant, whose popularity might be waning in the United States but there’s huge global appeal, especially in China, and there are plenty of people who dislike him, which is always a good reason to tune in.

The chance to see the Lakers completely mess up next season or struggle to remain some kind of force with a squad that showcases Bryant, Gasol and Nash makes them important enough to show on television plenty of times, even if no one is considering them to be title or even playoff material.

There are also the NBA TV games that go into the count, and fans have a chance to vote on the games that will be televised on Tuesday night, so there’s a good chance both the Heat and the Lakers move up the chart, considering the size of their fan bases and how interesting it might be seeing them perform next season. Even if the Lakers don’t do well, last year proved that fans tune in to watch a train wreck when it’s the Lakers getting pummeled.

David Stern once said that the ideal final for him is the Lakers against the Lakers, and the way we see the schedule and the televised spots, despite the very low expectations from them, it’s easy to understand were that kind of thinking is coming from.

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