Skip to Content

What happens if an NBA game gets postponed?

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions across many aspects of society in these past 2 years or so. One of the first, major activities to get disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the 2019-2020 NBA season, and that was just the start. The NBA world was just getting started in dealing with postponements, cancellations, rescheduling, and so many other “crisis management” procedures, but the NBA has had to deal with postponed games for decades.

What happens if an NBA game gets postponed? In the situation where an NBA game is postponed, the game is rescheduled. If the game cannot be rescheduled, then it is canceled. Rescheduling postponed games also often ends up in other games being moved around to create the most convenient and appropriate schedule. In the 2021-2022 NBA regular season, 10 NBA games were postponed, and all postponed games were rescheduled and played.

What scheduling changes occur when an NBA game is postponed?

When an NBA game is postponed, sometimes its not as simple as moving the game to another date. It may require other games to be moved around to create a convenient and plausible schedule for the team(s) involved. For example, the 2021-2022 season saw 11 games postponed for COVID-19 protocols and subsequently rescheduled; however, 10 other games had either the date or time of the game rescheduled to appease the postponed games. This change was done so that instead of teams playing 3 games in 3 nights, they were able to play 4 games in 5 nights.

What happens to ticket holders when an NBA game is postponed?

The ticket rules for NBA games state that individuals who have a ticket to an NBA game that has been postponed will still own that ticket should the game be rescheduled for a different time. Ticket Holders may or may not have the option to ask for a refund in this case, but the standard rule is that because the ticket is still valid, it is not eligible for a refund. If a game is postponed and later canceled, ticket holders are eligible for a full refund.

Why have NBA games been postponed?

Historically, NBA games have been postponed for a multitude of reasons. It is insightful to look back at the history of postponed NBA games and why they were postponed to get a better idea of what constitutes a postponement. The number of games postponed and the reason why are organized into a table below:

DatePostponed gamesReason for postponementNotes
November 22nd, 1963Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers   New York Knicks vs Baltimore Bullets   Los Angeles Lakers vs San Francisco WarriorsThe assassination of President John F. Kennedy2 games were played in January 1964 and 1 game was played in March 1964
April 7th and April 10th, 1968Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers   Los Angeles Lakers vs San Francisco Warriors  The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Both teams were set to play each other twice. The April 7th games were played on April 10th, and the April 10th games were played on April 11th
January 17th, 1989Phoenix Suns vs Miami HeatMiami RiotsPlayed on April 19th, 1989
April 30th and May 1st, 1992Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Clippers   Portland Trailblazers vs Los Angeles LakersRodney King Riots in Los AngelesBoth games were played on May 3rd, 1992, in separate venues (different venues rather than team stadium)
November 15th, 1999San Antonio Spurs vs Utah JazzLeaky roof in the Utah Jazz stadiumGame was played same day after 3 hours
April 20th, 1999Portland Trailblazers vs Denver NuggetsColumbine High School MassacrePlayed on May 2nd, 1999
January 28th, 2020Los Angeles Clippers vs Los Angeles LakersDeath of Kobe BryantOriginally rescheduled for April 9th, 2020, was further postponed until July 30th, 2020
March 11th, 2020Remainder of 2019-2020 season gamesCOVID-19 pandemicGames that were not cancelled resumed starting July 30th, 2020
August 26th and August 27th, 2020Milwaukee Bucks vs Orlando Magic   Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trailblazers   Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks   Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets   Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City ThunderJacob Blake shootingAfter deliberation on whether the postseason should continue, games resumed on August 29th, 2020
December 23rd, 2020Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City ThunderThe Houston Rockets did not have enough players to participate in the game 
December 14th to December 30th, 2021Detroit Pistons vs Chicago Bulls Chicago Bulls vs Toronto Raptors Denver Nuggets vs Brooklyn Nets Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks New Orleans Pelicans vs Philadelphia 76ers Orlando Magic vs Toronto Raptors Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets Toronto Raptors vs Chicago Bulls Brooklyn Nets vs Portland Trailblazers Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets  COVID-19 protocols10 other games were also postponed to adjust for scheduling changes. Games were spread out between January, February, and March 2022

Have NBA games been canceled before?

Yes, there have been a few instances where NBA games have been outright canceled. It usually is considered as a no-result; for example, a Pacers-Celtics game canceled in the 2012-2013 regular season resulted in the fact that both teams finished with a record that totaled 81 games. Games that are canceled are usually due to more extreme circumstances that may potentially harm the players, staff, and fans at the venue, and are not considered for rescheduling. Events like the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 resulted in a cancelled Boston Celtics game, while games scheduled on March 11th, 2020 were immediately cancelled after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the league. The September 11th attacks also saw the cancellation of pre-season games played overseas over fears of any further terrorist attacks.

Because of the unpredictable nature of external events, the NBA has procedures in place to ensure that they can postpone, reschedule, or even cancel NBA games where necessary. The safety of players, staff, faculty, and fans have to come first; the games can always be played at a more appropriate time.