NBA's 82 Games Too Long? Why the League's Lack of Parity Is Crippling Things
Professional Basketball is likely the only major professional team sport that can be completely dominated by the presence of only a handful of players on one team. Historically the best dynasties in the game have revolved around one superstar who was surrounded by one or two other all stars and a cast of role players.
In no other sport is this singular domination possible. Jordan's Bulls are often looked at as one of the greatest teams ever to play in the NBA. Ask a casual fan who played with Jordan and they will certainly rattle off Pippen and Rodman, but only true basketball fans would even be able to complete the starting lineup.
The need for a superstar to compete is more apparent in the NBA than it is in any other sport. In the NFL, wildcard teams have begun frequently winning Super Bowls and defending a division title is precarious let alone a Super Bowl victory. In baseball the large market teams always compete, but there have been more than a few surprise winners in the past decade, including this year's San Francisco Giants.
In the NHL, the league's marquee names were playing golf last season by the time the upstart Flyers and the quality but not dominating Blackhawks finished their series.
This year, ever NBA franchise will play in 82 games. At the end of the season eight teams will make the playoffs and yet everyone is already talking about the Heat, Celtics, and Lakers. Yes the Thunder, Magic, and a few other teams still have hope, but America has already tuned out.
Why play 82 games? If the Celtics proved anything last season it was that the NBA regular season simply does not matter. They outlined a formula which could get any roster with enough talented veterans to within one quarter and potentially one injury of a NBA Title.
Come out of the gate strong, rest your legs for a couple of months, and then ride a middle of the road seed into the Finals. Chances are that they will look to duplicate their successes again this season.
The NBA is facing a serious problem. In a league where ticket sales are on the decline, superstars seem to be more content on teaming up than carrying their own franchise. There's already the old big three in Boston, the new big three in Miami, and Kobe and friends in Los Angeles.
All the while, small market clubs are struggling to make ends meet while the other large market teams are running out of superstars to recruit.
How can the league fix these issues and increase their financial viability. Well shortening the season would help. Basketball players play too many games.
With less games to play, every game will garner an increased level of importance. This will increase the quality of the basketball on a nightly basis and make season tickets more affordable. With fewer opportunities to see their favorite teams play fans will be forced to pack the arenas.
While ticket revenues may be down, so will expenses. Another thing a shorter season will reduce is the number of injuries players suffer. The game of basketball includes a lot movements that are simply unnatural. Combined with the length of the season this leads to much of the league being banged up or out by the time the playoff finally roll around.
If more teams are healthy than there will be a higher quality of basketball in the playoffs and the playoffs is where the NBA needs to shift their focus.
It's time for the NBA to take a page out of the NCAA's book and realize that regular season basketball just is not that exciting. If the NBA shortened its season and expanded the playoffs, would anybody complain.
Extended playoffs would help sell more tickets, because playoff basketball is what truly sells. The NCAA tournament has been one of the most successful sporting endeavors for decades and the closer the NBA can get to the NCAA the better.
It would be a difficult shift but one that would be in everyone's best interest. The NBA is struggling more than the NFL and MLB, but that does not have to be the case. The NBA has a model in the NCAA Tournament and while they cannot achieve a format anywhere similar, the emphasis on quality basketball is something the NBA should truly start looking into.
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