How the NBA Can Salvage its Season


New York Times

NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a press conference before the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.

Jacob Myers, Sports Writer

Being a sports fan is miserable at the current moment. There’s little snippets of news like NFL free agency that come and go that provide possibly an hour’s worth of sports happiness until you realize that nothing else exciting will happen again for a while, thus putting you in the void of not having anything to watch. The world of sports is just off right now. We don’t have the NBA, NHL, spring training, March Madness, the Olympics, the Masters, XFL, and many more. Even watching ESPN’s “The Ocho” the other day just didn’t feel the same. As sports fans, we need to see something come back. As much as I like going back and watching Boobie Gibson and Hot Rod Williams highlight tapes, I need live sports more than ever. 

The 2019-20 NBA season was having a great year. New stars were emerging like Luka Doncic and Trae Young, LeBron was an MVP front-runner at 35 years old, and no one could predict how the season was going to end. And then on March 12, the first player tested positive for the coronavirus and took the season right out of our hands. In no way was that the player’s fault, but because of them, the season had to get postponed. Now, we have a hole in our lives without basketball, college or professional. The NCAA already cancelled its postseason tournament, so the NBA is where something needs to happen.

Obviously the season can’t be played for a while. There have been multiple players and members of the franchises who have tested positive for the coronavirus, so playing would make zero sense. But, that doesn’t mean the future could be as bleak as the present. Currently, in both the Eastern and Western conferences, the eight seeds hold a sizable gap between themselves and the ninth seeds. The Magic hold a five and a half game lead over the Wizards and the Grizzlies hold a three and a half game advantage over the Blazers, Pelicans, and Kings. So theoretically, the playoffs could be set with little debate. Some teams were reaching the 70 game mark for the season, so there would have to be a lot of losing and winning streaks alike to really reshape the look of the playoffs. 

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated to Dallas news station WFAA that, “if [he] had to guess based off the people I’ve talked to at the CDC and other places, [he] would say that the over-under for a restart would be June 1, and [he’s] taking the under.” If the NBA season restarted on June 1, the league might as well just go into the playoffs. 

Since the season would be extended very far into what most players know as the off season, the first and second rounds would both be shortened. The first round matchups could be a best-of-three style with the higher seed having both games one and three. TV ratings would stay the same and the league would still be able to make a profit because all sports fans would be tuning in to watch. Since the competition would be getting more intense, the second round (or conference semifinals) would be played as a best-of-five to help the players get back into a groove better than in the first round. The players understandably would be a little rusty in the first series, so having the next be two games longer would help them in getting back to peak playoff form. From then on, the conference and NBA finals would be a traditional best-of-seven series in order to maximize profits and fan enjoyment. The finals would not be the same if they didn’t have a game seven. There’s something about memorable game seven moments that defines what the NBA is all about. LeBron’s block in 2016. Ron Artest’s jumper in 2010. Kyrie’s dagger in 2016. Kawhi’s buzzer-beater in 2019. Ray Allen’s corner three to force a game seven in 2013. Those moments last with the fans, and the NBA couldn’t take that away, even in these circumstances.

The NBA is the league with the widest, most diverse fan base in the world that would be playing right now. To see those players back on the floor, giving their all to win a title is what sports needs right now. It doesn’t have to be sudden, but the NBA should implement a way for the fans to see the best players in the world face off. It would be a beacon of hope in the midst of all this despair.