The NBA has become the most relevant sport in America within the last 5 years. It’s much more pop-culturally infused than any other sport, and to do that an organization must be open to change. That openness has come in many forms from embracing the outspokenness of players taking on social and racial justice issues, to revamping the way the league’s All-Star festivities are rolled out. In it’s latest shift toward change, the NBA is exploring options to shorten the season schedule, adding a mid-season cup, and post-season tournaments. Why would the NBA consider shifting away from a format that’s been around for decades?
Simply put, the long 82 game season plus the playoffs is strenuous on players. We witnessed this truth in the late season injuries that plagued the Warriors. According to CBS Sports, a committee of team executives held a conference call earlier this month in which they discussed everything from a mid-season tournament to reducing the number of games for the 2021-22 season. ESPN, shared further details:
The NBA is formally exploring how it might use its 75th anniversary season as an opportunity to test some of its bolder initiatives — not only a midseason cup and postseason play-in tournament, but also a reduction in the 82-game regular-season schedule.
On a June 17 conference call, a committee that consists of approximately a dozen top team executives from both basketball and business operations discussed with the league office ideas for alternatives to the traditional NBA schedule for the 2021-22 season. In what sources characterize as a wide-ranging brainstorming session with accompanying documents, participants contemplated how the NBA could introduce the aforementioned tournaments, as well as an abbreviated slate of regular-season games to accommodate the additional events.
The number of games in a reduced regular season discussed on the conference call ranged from 58 — ensuring every team would host each of the 29 other teams in their arena over the course of a season — to a marginal cut of only a handful of games. According to sources on the call, the appetite among team officials for a major reduction in the number of games was limited.
While the health of the players is of interest to the NBA, the final decision will be made in terms of how this change will impact revenue. Owners would have to agree on giving up guaranteed revenue from 41 home games per year. A price that may be too much to pay. After all, basketball is a business and not just a game.