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Multimedia content initiative NBA Bet, including TV show, launched ahead of playoffs

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The NBA on Thursday announced the launch of NBA Bet, a multimedia content initiative including a betting-centric show that will debut Friday on NBA TV.

“NBABet presented by BetMGM” will air weekly on the league’s network and feature betting analysis as well updating odds from BetMGM’s data feed.

In addition to the show, a new section for betting content will be added to NBA.com and the league’s app. League media partners including Turner Sports, Bleacher Report, Yahoo Sports and Action Network will contribute personalities and content to NBA Bet. For example, Action Network, a sports betting-focused media outlet, will operate a new Twitter feed @NBABet, according to Thursday’s announcement.

It’s the NBA’s latest move in the growing U.S. betting market and continues the trend of point spreads, odds and picks being integrated into the American sports landscape.

“We’ve said consistently that sports betting should be an opt-in experience,” NBA senior vice president Scott Kaufman-Ross told ESPN. “The creation of the NBA Bet platform gives us the ability to serve the fan in this way. By creating NBA Bet, we’re able to create an environment where we can serve betting content to the fans that want it, while not pushing it on the fans that aren’t interested.”

A 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court opened a path for all states to get into the legal bookmaking business. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have launched in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and several more jurisdictions have passed legislation and are preparing to launch sports betting markets.

The NBA has been among the most aggressive leagues in the sports betting space. Over the past two seasons, the league has offered alternate, betting-focused streams of games. The league is now prepping to allow analysts to make betting picks on NBA games on its network and media platforms.

Kaufman-Ross acknowledged that sports leagues are in a “unique position in the [betting] ecosystem” and that the NBA was attempting to navigate any perceived conflicts of interest. No active players or coaches will be used with NBA Bet content, and the league will rely on its media partners to make picks on games, Kaufman-Ross said.

“We have regular dialogue with the [sportsbook] operators about what we feel is appropriate,” Kaufman-Ross, who heads the league’s fantasy and gaming initiatives, said. “Our partners have been great in respecting our wishes about the pace in which we think things should roll out. We’re still being cognizant that we don’t want to oversaturate our telecasts with sports betting advertising. We want to be cognizant about problem gaming and making sure we’re educating our fans and being responsible with the way we roll this out.”

“NBABet,” which will be based out of WarnerMedia Studios in Atlanta, will debut at 6:30 p.m. ET, Friday on NBA TV, ahead of the playoffs, which tip off this weekend.

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Atlanta Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu out about 6 months after shoulder surgery, sources say

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Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu — the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft — underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Wednesday, and he will miss approximately six months, sources told ESPN.

Okongwu’s role grew as the season wore on for the Hawks, but a lingering injury beginning in May resulted in the need for the procedure. Renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe performed the procedure on Okongwu in Los Angeles, sources said.

Okongwu, 20, is expected to make a full recovery, sources said.

Training camps start in late September, and the 82-game regular season for 2021-22 commences in mid-October.

Okongwu played 50 regular-season games for the Hawks and averaged 9.2 minutes in 18 playoff games in the Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference finals. Okongwu showed significant promise in earning more minutes behind starter Clint Capela as the season wore on.

The Hawks drafted Okongwu out of the University of Southern California, where he was a first-team All-Pac 12 performer in his one season of college basketball.

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Gains sizable in NBA Finals ratings from last year, but fourth-lowest average since 1997

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NEW YORK — Television ratings for the NBA Finals and playoffs posted sizable increases over last year. But that was the only good news for the NBA as far as viewer numbers.

According to Nielsen, the NBA and ABC on Wednesday, the six-game series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns averaged 9.91 million viewers, a 32% increase over last year’s series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, which also went six games. However, the average makes it the fourth-lowest since 1997.

The Lakers-Heat series — which was played in October in the Orlando bubble after the coronavirus pandemic pushed the season back five months — averaged only 7.45 million.

San Antonio‘s 2007 four-game sweep of Cleveland (9.29 million) and the Spurs’ six-game victory over New Jersey in 2003 (9.83 million) are the other series to average fewer than 10 million since 1997.

The numbers were also down 34.5% compared to two years ago, when the TorontoGolden State series averaged 15.14 million.

Milwaukee’s 105-98 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night attracted the most viewers in the series, averaging 12.52 million. The audience peaked between 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. EDT at 16.54 million. Only two games in the series averaged 10 million or more.

This year’s playoffs averaged 4.25 million, up 35% over last year but down 18% compared to 2019.

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Two shootings leave 3 wounded in Milwaukee during celebration of Bucks’ NBA championship

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MILWAUKEE — Two shootings in downtown Milwaukee early Wednesday as crowds celebrated the Milwaukee Bucks‘ first NBA championship in 50 years left three people wounded, police said.

The shootings both happened about 12:42 a.m. at two locations near Water Street, police said in a statement. TV station WISN had a reporter broadcasting from the scene when multiple shots were heard, prompting people to flee.

The shootings were across the Milwaukee River from Fiserv Forum, where the game was played, and the Deer District plaza, where a crowd of roughly 65,000 had gathered for an outdoor watch party. The area where the shootings took place is on a street heavily populated with bars and restaurants.

During Tuesday night’s game, a police officer was trampled by people trying to get into the Deer District watch party after the area had reached capacity, Milwaukee police Capt. Jesús Ortiz said in an email. The officer didn’t sustain any major injuries but reported being in general pain, Ortiz said.

Following one of the shootings, a 22-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, police said, and a suspect was in custody.

In the other shooting, which police said happened simultaneously, a 19-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries. One person was in custody and other suspects were being sought, police said.

The two shootings, which were in the immediate area of the celebrations, likely were what was heard during the TV coverage, Ortiz said.

The celebrations came after Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

Fans who packed the streets surrounding the arena had cheered and danced all night as they watched the game on giant video screens, and the massive crowd erupted in jubilation as the game ended. A few fans climbed light poles in the plaza and others jumped off a bridge into the nearby river as fireworks exploded above the arena.

Joy Smith, 50, of Milwaukee, danced after the final buzzer. “Milwaukee is underrated, but we proved to the world we could do it,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Another fan, Sabrina Holland, 37, of Milwaukee, called it “epic.” She said: “Everyone who’s anyone is here.“

Before the game, and at the city’s request, Gov. Tony Evers mobilized 150 National Guard members to help in Milwaukee with traffic control and public safety.

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