LeBron James and the Miami Heat are more popular than the NBA champs in Dallas, but their finals series was second best in TV ratings to last year's Lakers-Celtics matchup. Reuters

This year's NBA Finals polarized basketball viewers, with Miami Heat fans standing by their team--and many more hoops fans loving to hate the Heat for the boasts the team's three stars made before the season even began.

But the intriguing duel between the Heat, led by the three stars LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, and the Dallas Mavericks, fronted by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and John Terry, did not produce a record-breaking finals in terms of audience. Last year's confrontation between the L.A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics earned a 10.6 rating from Nielsen, compared to this year's finals, which had 10.2 percent of all television households tuning in.

Additionally, it seems that the adage is true that there's no such thing as bad publicity, when it comes to TV ratings. The Heat were vilified for their preseason prediction of multiple championships and their mocking of Nowitzki's illness during Game 4--but this seemed only to make more people tune in.

Dallas may have won the championship, but Miami won the ratings war.

The Heat were on people's minds even when the games weren't going on. Social media watchers report that LeBron James and Miami Heat showed up on Twitter and Facebook 330,000 times during the playoffs, compared to 140,000 times for the Dallas Mavericks, according to Neilsen.

The 1998 NBA Finals earned the highest ratings in NBA history, with Michael Jordan leading the Chicago Bulls over the Utah Jazz in his last season--18.7 percent of U.S. television households tuned in for that.