The NBA has gone through several different version of their league schedule before their current iteration, the NBA currently use a format where all teams play 82 games in a season running from late in October through until early in April. The reason for this format is that it gives every team the same amount of home and away games, 41 each in total, in the entirety of the season.
The 82-game season has remained the same in the NBA since the 1967-68 season, but recently questions have been raised about why the league has continued to play 82 games a season and how much this number makes sense for the modern league.
At that point in time during the 1976-68 season, the NBA had only 12-teams playing in the league, and every team played their conference rivals 8 times apiece and non-conference teams 7 times each.
The league now contains 30 teams in total and what made sense in 1967 may no longer have a place in the modern game. Some critics of the NBA are suggesting that now might be a good time to explore new options for the league to move the game forward.
So, what are the reasons the NBA has chosen to stick with its tried and tested format? Why does the modern NBA stick with a schedule of 82 games that is now over 50 years old? This article will explore these reasons so you can stay as informed as possible about the NBA and all its secrets.
First of all, there’s that classic excuse: Tradition. Like with any major organization, change is difficult and many of us use the age-old adage ‘if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it’ to explain a lot of our decisions and the NBA is no different. Tradition can be a great way to protect the legacy that so many players, managers, and behind the scenes professionals not to mention the teams themselves have worked so hard for. But some are now thinking that the NBA now needs to move with the times to protect the quality of the game and the players themselves.
Money of course makes the world go round, and it’s one of the biggest factors in all professional sports. Broadcasters, arenas, team owners, and the players themselves all rely on the 82-games for the revenues and the amount of money they make in the year and across the season. The LA Lakers as one of the biggest teams in the world for example makes money every game from food sales, merchandise, not to mention the broadcasting rights just to name a few streams of revenue. If games were to be taken out of the schedule, which is now a more likely possibility than ever before, every team and the individuals both on and off the court would be affected. The bottom line must be protected.
Tradition and money are two of the biggest reasons behind the 82-game format and why the league continually keep this schedule despite its age. There have been serious discussions in the past year about modifying the structure of the NBA league’s schedule. A resident league meeting at the NBA’s Summer League tournament in Las Vegas discussed modifying the schedule to shorten the season by several games. Many of the media’s leading members and high-profile players have lobbied for a shorter season for an extended period of time and many of their arguments make sense given the modern landscape of the game.
Here are some of their reasonings behind a shorter season:
3. Player Health
Many players are worried that an 82-game season has negative effects on the player’s health, and this is a major reason behind a shorter season. Basketball is a very physical game and the more games a player plays in, the higher the risk of injury, not to mention the general wear and tear a body goes through at this high level of physical exercise.
Many players have serious injuries as a result of the sheer amount of time they play on the court. To show how much time each player spends on the course let's take a look at Paul George who co-led league in minutes average per game at 36.9 minutes.
- Assuming he played the entire season of 82-games on this average he would play 3025 minutes or 50 hours on the court.
- In a 75-game schedule which many think could be a viable alternative to the 82-game season, he would play 2,767 minutes or 46 hours on the court.
- While this might not seem like much, it’s over 300 minutes that could be taken off George’s workload ever season.
In a game like Basketball where every minute counts, this could really make a huge positive difference to player’s ability to play longer and even better games.
4. Higher Standard Of Play
This leads us onto a higher quality of play as a major factor behind lobbyist’s wanting to shorten the season. There are several different strands of thought that tie into this reason as a whole the first and most obvious being that players who play less are less tired and have more energy for the entirety of the season. If players play less, they also run less of a risk getting injured which will help keep the top players on the court rather than off the court in recovery.
League coaches have also been trying a new strategy called ‘load management’ in recently. Load management is where coaches strictly monitoring the top players and how often they’re on and off the court and strategically taking them out of games for long stretches or even entire games from the season in an attempt to spare them from injury. A shorter season means less need to manage a player’s time on the court, which will keep them playing in more games. If the best players play more, than the game itself already at an incredibly high level, will only continue to reach higher heights and draw more people to watch!
Whether you want an 82-game or think the NBA should move to a shorter season, there’s no denying that that for the league to seriously be considering shortening the season is massively encouraging for players and fans who want a season with fewer games. There’s no denying that money is a huge factor in these situations, but the NBA has also been breaking with tradition recently making some interesting decisions to make lost revenue to players, owners and arenas alike, so it’s possible that they may find a way to think outside the box on this issue too.
Another option that’s been tossed into the ring is a mid-season tournament to decide the playoff teams at the end of the year. A mini-version of the NCAA March Madness Tournament could be exactly what’s needed and shows the kind of thinking that’s happening to find a way to please fans and protect the players and the bottom line.
Clearly, this isn’t an argument that’s going to vanish overnight, and some serious decisions will have to be made at some point over the future look of the season, so watch this space. Who knows, in a few years we could see a whole new modern NBA emerge like a phoenix from the ashes. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a basketball fan.
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