NBA Debate: Why David Stern Should Shorten Season for Good

Jordan SpectorContributor IIIFebruary 25, 2012

The league's recent success has revealed why shortening the season is the right move for David Stern.
The league's recent success has revealed why shortening the season is the right move for David Stern.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

It's been a while since the NBA lockout first reared its ugly head. But as the season is now at its halfway point, fans are fully immersed in what has been an action packed year. With the emergence of Jeremy Lin and an end to the Clippers' franchise woes, perhaps it could be argued that the elongated labor dispute that resulted in a 66 game season was somewhat of a blessing in disguise. 

Games taking place in the months preceding All-Star break have always lacked the excitement and competitive spirit that is illuminated during the final stretch of a season.

This year, that's not the case.

Many will blame the high frequency of games in a short period of time as the main culprit for the added pressure many teams are currently feeling. Many will point to the lack of training camp as the reason why coaches have been more daring and experimental in forming their rotations or giving opportunities to unlikely candidates. Yet it must be acknowledged that the shortened schedule brings about a sense of urgency in teams that has motivated them to play hard every single night.

In the early stages of a normal season, players and fans alike are aware of the long road ahead of them—the long months consisting of three to four games a week.

But sometimes, the road feels endless. 

Much like baseball, the NBA season is a true test of an athlete's endurance. As such, it's also a breeding ground for boredom and the frequent broadcasting of meaningless matchups on TV.

However, it's a very different story in professional football. When NFL Sunday comes around, its like a weekly holiday. Football fans unite in joyous celebration, while eagerly awaiting the once a week treat of being able to root for their favorite team as they battle and grind it out in a game of epic proportions.

Why can't we feel the same exuberance before a mid-season NBA game? Maybe, because of the fact that the following night, we'll be doing it all over again.

The NBA season has become too ordinary.

Simply put, the lack of anticipation, and the noncompetitive nature of mid-season games, has created a wealth of disinterest in its fans.

When the NBA first implemented an 82 game schedule in the 1960's, the main purpose was to maintain financial balance when dealing with player salaries and other expenses.

And to this day, financial burdens serve as the primary motivator for maintaining the lengthy season.

But so far, the compressed schedule brought about by the lockout is proving why an extra 16 games might not be an economic necessity.

According to Henry Abbott of ESPN.com, as of February 2nd, ESPN viewership is up 23 percent, TNT viewership is up 50 percent, NBA TV is surprisingly up 66 percent, NBA on regional cable sports networks are up 12 percent, and Local over-the-airwaves broadcasts are up 36 percent.

Jeremy Lin's sudden rise to fame has created buzz in China and around the NBA.
Jeremy Lin's sudden rise to fame has created buzz in China and around the NBA.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NBA also recently signed a big deal with Sprint and extended contracts with big name companies including Gatorade and AutoTrader.com.

While the huge increase in TV ratings for the Knicks are obviously a result of the emergence of Jeremy Lin, increases in viewership of NBA games around the league have sky rocketed to record levels since the season started during Christmas. 

Not only is the shortened season appealing to fans, but it's actually creating an increase in league income due to high ticket sales and media attention.

Therefore, the tentative resolution to the NBA lockout has spontaneously created a recipe for financial success.

It should be noted, however, that the NBA dealt with huge financial losses due to the labor dispute, but the rewards that have aroused from it are far too great to dwell on the past.

From the perspective of an NBA fan, it's pretty safe to say many have moved on.

The NBA has returned to relevance around the world. This year will likely become one the most memorable seasons in NBA history, due to an increased interest in the game, and the newly found popularity in Asian countries such as China—where television rating are reportedly up 39 percent.

David Stern might have described the lockout as being "a great tragedy," but the resulting widespread support and international attention has certainly proven otherwise.

If the NBA maintains the current level of income, it will be more than enough to compensate for 16 games in which team owners lose the chance to sell over priced stadium food and memorabilia to their fans.

While financial problems have clearly proven to be the least of concerns if an NBA season were to be shortened, there would be a great amount of other benefits as well.

With less games over a longer stretch, more practice time would allow for an increased quality in play and team chemistry.

Players would be given more rest.

Games would hold more meaning since playoffs approach more quickly, and as a result, the increased importance of each game would attract a larger fan base.

For the sake of clarification, if the NBA season was shortened, the schedule would not be condensed like it is now.

Coaches would be delighted to have ample practice time and the ability to take a closer look at players who would normally be given few minutes in a real game.

Doug Collins, coach of the Philadelphia 76ers would be a huge supporter of such a change.

"I hate just coaching the games, Collins said. "For me, the fun of the NBA is being on the practice floor and working with guys and watching them get better.

While a head coach's job would become in some instances, more enjoyable, players would find it easier to manage fatigue and the ware and tare of an NBA season.

In addition to making the road to the postseason shorter—which would create more regular season enthusiasm—it's becoming increasingly clear as this year's season progresses, that lessening the number of scheduled games is not a consequence, but a blessing for David Stern and league officials.

With such a blessing, the most logical thing to do is to continue using the formula that has suddenly propelled the NBA to soaring heights, and put an end to the 82 game schedule once and for all.

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