Knicks’ 2OT win over Celtics is ESPN’s most-watched Wednesday NBA opener in 18 years

It’s fun being a Knicks fan these days.

The New York Knicks have solidified their status as one of the must-watch teams in the NBA after opening the new season with an epic double-overtime win over their old rival Boston Celtics.

According to Nielsen, the Knicks-Celtics classic was ESPN’s most-watched Wednesday NBA season-opening game in 18 years.

Evan Fournier’s red-hot shooting, Julius Randle, and Derrick Rose’s clutch plays were enough to withstand Jaylen Brown’s 46-point career night.

Their riveting showdown drew an average of 1.96 million viewers, which peaked at 2.87 million viewers from 10:30-10:45 p.m. ET.

The double-overtime classic drew a 3.5 rating in the New York market, making it the highest-rated national regular-season Knicks game telecast since 2017. The game also delivered a 4.0 rating in the Boston market.

Overall, Wednesday’s telecast, which also included the Denver Nuggets win over Phoenix Suns, became ESPN’s most-watched season-opening doubleheader since 2017. It drew an average of 1.74 million viewers, up 39 percent vs. 2020, up 10 percent vs. 2019, and up 22 percent vs. 2018.

The Knicks’ resurgence buoyed by their surprising, feel-good playoff run last season has inspired the league and its broadcast partners to put them on 22 nationally televised games, including Wednesday’s season opener. It’s the biggest jump by any NBA team in the last two seasons. In 2019, the Knicks only had three games on national TV while they had six during the previous pandemic-condensed season.

The Knicks will also have seven games on NBA TV in addition to their games on ESPN, ABC, and TNT.

Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd summed up why it’s so easy to root for the Knicks.

“When you watch the New York Knicks play, I find them so redeemable and so easy to root for because they’re winners,” Cowherd said on his Fox Sports’ show The Herd.

The sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd was electric on Wednesday night. The building was rocked to its core after every Obi Toppin slam, Fournier three-pointer, Randle’s go-to move, and Rose’s dagger.

The Knicks’ culture and impression around the league had dramatically shifted when team president Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau took over last year. The players have responded well to Thibodeau’s no non-sense coaching.

Judging by fans’ reactions and the Knicks’ box office appeal on national TV, it’s safe to say that New York basketball is back!

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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