Why NBA's 82-Game Schedule Is Overkill for Fans and Players
With the NBA's unveiling of its schedule on Thursday night comes the return of the league's vaunted 82-game schedule.
For the league, adding 16 extra games is the only drawback of not going through another elongated lockout.
The brilliance of this past season's 66-game schedule is proof positive that 82 games is overkill for players and fans. Each night had an action-packed schedule that captivated event the most casual NBA fan. Storylines were boundless and the games were even better.
Unfortunately, the 82-game overkill of a schedule is back, and it's here to stay. Want some reasons why it shouldn't be? Follow along for the biggest reasons the NBA's 82-game schedule is overkill.
Shorter Schedule Means Better Games on TV for Fans
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ESPN, TNT and NBA TV are all available for almost every digital cable subscriber. And with the league at a talent apex, the NBA could theoretically pit two watchable teams for Association fans every night.
A shorter schedule makes that a lot easier. No longer would teams have to play four games in five nights, making players better rested and more likely to provide quality contests.
That won't happen as often next season as the league stretches its television schedule by another two months. In a league with 30 teams, that means we're looking seeing a nationally televised Charlotte Bobcats game next season...and no one wants that.
The Public Doesn't Pay Attention to the NBA Until Christmas, Anyway
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A secret underlying subplot of this past season's lockout is how much the NBA ownership emphasized that the Christmas games had to be played.
What that signaled is something that most hardcore NBA fans have known for a long time: The NBA season doesn't officially start until the Christmas Day slate of games on ESPN and ABC.
Much like the NFL and Thanksgiving, the NBA has adopted Christmas as its holiday. The league pits its most prominent teams against each other, plays up every single storyline and promotes the games like they're the Dark Knight Rises.
Obviously, the games from Halloween through Christmas games count for the standings and for Association junkies, but they're little more than SportsCenter filler for your casual fan.
If the league would adopt an aforementioned 70-game schedule, they could theoretically begin every Christmas and end the first week in July without putting any extra wear on players.
And if the soaring NBA ratings from this past season are any indication, it seems as if the league could use Christmas as a vessel for continued growth.
82-Game Schedule Punishes Durable Players Long-Term
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If you have ever wondered why formerly athletic NBA stars seemingly wear down like NFL running backs, look no further than the 82-game schedule.
For a prime example, let's look at Lakers great Kobe Bryant.
Bryant's 1,161 games over his 16 NBA seasons average out to 72.56 games per season. When accounting for Bryant's two lockout-shortened seasons (1998-1999, 2011-12), Kobe has roughly played in 91.9 percent of his possible regular season games. And if you count Bryant's 220 career postseason games (which of course you do), that number goes up to an astounding 93.1 percent.
Bryant also struggled so much through a season at 32 years old that he went to Germany to get a blood platelet spinning treatment on his knees that currently isn't available in the U.S.
Just for fun, let's compare Bryant to everyone's favorite NBA barometer, Michael Jordan.
Not counting his late-season return in 1994-95, Jordan's 1,055 career games average to 75.35 games per season. Jordan never suffered a lockout, but his game percentage (91.3) eerily matches Bryant’s. And again, that percentage rises to 92.5 when you account for playoff games.
So why did a 32-year-old Jordan look as great as ever while Bryant was grasping to the edge of his prime?
Let's start with obvious. Bryant played 406 more career games than MJ by the end of his age 32 season. You can blame that on Bryant choosing to enter the draft out of high school, but that massive number has more to do with Jordan's year-and-a-half baseball hiatus than anything.
That stint in the White Sox minor league system gave Jordan his desired mental clarity, but more importantly, gave his body time to heal.
A regular season shortened by 12 games would theoretically provide players an extra month off. While that may not seem like much, those extra months would give Kobe a total of 16 extra months to rest his body over the course of his career.
You know, just about the same length of Jordan's baseball hiatus.
82 Games Schedule Is About Revenue, Not Players or Fans
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The fact of the matter is that the NBA knows its players and fans would be better served by a shorter schedule.
They know it would give players invaluable time to heal, extend the careers of stars and lessen the amount of in-season injuries.
They know healthier players would give fans a better level of play, allow for better team matchups and give their customers less to digest.
David Stern is a lot of things, but dense is certainly not one of them.
Regardless of its benefits, a hypothetical 70-game season can't happen if the NBA wants to garner a league-wide profit. The subtraction of 12 games would cost each team six games of home ticket receipts—something that would equate to around $5.37 million in lost revenue per team (numbers crunched using a Bloomberg report that NBA teams generated $1.1 billion in ticket revenue in 2010-11). That's something that NBA teams hemorrhaging money cannot afford in the interim.
But if the league slowly starts making a transition, the league could eventually pull it off if they found a secondary revenue scheme.
It's a process, but for all of the reasons listed, the 82-game season needs to go. It would be best for players, fans and (eventually) the league.