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TV ratings for NBA finals down 17 percent from last year

Lakers win, Lakers win. That's nice, but who was watching?

NBC's ratings for the Los Angeles Lakers' four-game sweep of New Jersey in the NBA Finals were the second-lowest since the league went to a prime-time format 21 years ago.

The ratings for the NBA Finals -- the finale of NBC's decade of NBA coverage -- were 10.8 with a 19 share, down 17 percent from the first four games of last year's series between the Lakers and Philadelphia.

The only lower rating was a 6.7 in 1981, when the prime-time format started. The Celtics beat the Rockets in six games for that title.

Next year, the NBA network telecasts move to ABC.

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It helps to have a Triple Crown contender, and that would be War Emblem.

For the three Triple Crown races -- the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes -- NBC had a combined 6.8 rating with an 18 share. Last year it had a 6.1 with a 17 share.

The Belmont, with War Emblem unsuccessfully seeking the Triple Crown, had a 7.6/21.

The ratings for the Triple Crown were up 11 percent from a year ago, with no contender for horse racing's coveted prize.

Around the tube

Marv Albert will lead TNT's coverage when its new NBA TV deal tips off next season. Albert has signed on with TNT for six years -- the duration of the network's NBA deal. He's been calling games on TNT for three years.

As part of its NBA package (shared with ABC/ESPN and a new channel to be jointly owned by AOL Time Warner Inc. and the NBA), TNT will air exclusive Thursday-night games, the NBA All-Star festivities, conference semifinals and conference finals.

More Albert. He'll be doing the play-by-play on the "Monday Night Football'' radio broadcasts, replacing Howard David, who has been working in that role since 1996. Boomer Esiason, who was added to the Monday night radio team after he was fired from his TV spot two years ago, will stay and work with Albert.

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"Monday Night Football" radio broadcasts have also added Jim Gray as its host. Gray was NBC-TV's sideline reporter on NBA telecasts. John Dockery will serve as the sideline reporter.

Lewis-Tyson? Last Saturday, the fight cost $54.95 on pay-per-view. It will be shown via tape at 8:45 p.m. Saturday on HBO.

Two University of Minnesota football games will be nationally televised -- at 5 p.m. Sept. 28 at Purdue on ESPN2 and at 6:45 p.m. Nov. 9 at home against Michigan on ESPN. It's the first time since 1986 the Gophers have been pre-selected for two national telecasts.

Monday's U.S. World Cup tie against South Korea was seen by an average of 1.36 million homes, making it the most-watched soccer telecast ever on ESPN2.

OK, OK, it's only June, but CBS has announced its 2002 college football season, opening with defending national champion Miami taking on Florida on Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports Net will televise 13 Pac-10 games, starting Aug. 31 with Oregon hosting Mississippi State.

Ping! ESPN and ESPN2 televise the majority of the College World Series, but CBS gets games on the weekend, including the June 22 championship game. At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Stanford takes on Notre Dame. Greg Gumbel calls the play-by-play. Ex-catcher Rick Cerone is the analyst. Notre Dame is playing in its first CWS in 45 years.

Be sure to mark July 27 on your calendar. That's when heavyweights Larry Holmes and Erick "Butterbean'' Esch will fight in a 10-round bout, which event promoters are touting as a fight for "respect.''

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Folks, they're putting this on pay-per-view. Holmes is 50 and has retired close to 24 times now, while they don't call him "Butterbean'' for nothing. He's a lot closer to 350 pounds than he is to 200.

The cost, by the way, is $19.95. It appears they're not joking, either.

Paul Christian is a Post-Bulletin sports writer, and writes a weekly Friday column devoted to TV and radio sports. He can be reached at pchristian@postbulletin.com

A variety of sources was used to compile this column.

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