When John Wall sauntered across the stage at the NBA Draft and put on that Wizards cap, I knew he could potentially become the most popular athlete in D.C. But I thought he might have to play his first NBA game, or at least attend his first training camp, before he could ascend to that position. I was wrong.
Turns out Washington already loves him, relatively speaking. According to Dan Steinberg, Wall is one of the bigger draws in D.C. sports, even in the NBA Summer League.
The five Summer League games on CSN averaged a 0.83 household rating in the D.C. market, equal to nearly 20,000 households, according to Nielsen numbers. It doesn't sound like much, but bear in mind that the Nats last season averaged a 0.60 rating on MASN and MASN2. Hell, bear in mind that the Wizards averaged a 0.79 rating on CSN in 2008-2009, and a 1.16 last season. So yes, John Wall's Summer Leaguers outdrew the actual NBA Washington Wizards from two seasons ago, and the actual Washington Nationals from last year.
Those teams were not very good, so their low ratings are not all that surprising. However, the fact that a pretty large number of casual fans consistently tuned into the NBA's Summer League is. Summer League teams are made up of rookies, "veterans" who have yet to prove themselves and non-roster players trying to earn an invite to training camp. It's not exactly the most attractive brand of basketball, even though hardcore basketball fans love it because it's a great way to get a feel for incoming rookies and keep up with former college stars you had forgotten all about.
But there aren't 20,000 fans of that caliber in the District, so that doesn't account for the ratings Wall's performance earned. Otherwise the Wizards would sell out every game. Clearly, I underestimated his drawing power. I fully expect that the high level of interest, and ratings, will continue to grow when the regular season begins.