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Why are there 82 games in an NBA season?

Since the 1967-68 season, when the San Diego Rockets (now Houston Rockets) and Seattle SuperSonics (now OKC Thunder) joined the league. Prior to this the league had 81 games for 1 season in 1966-67 and 80 games for the 4 seasons before that starting 1961-61. It has remained at 82 games ever since, despite the league expanding from just 12 to 30 teams over the years. 

Why are there 82 games in an NBA Season? The current 30 team, 82 game NBA season allows for each of the 30 teams team to play their four Divisional opponents four times a year (16 games), six other teams from the same conference four times a year (24 games), the remaining four conference opponents three times a year (12 games), and the fifteen teams from the opposing conference twice a year (30 games). This is split evenly, 41 at home and 41 on the road.

It should be pointed out that before the NBA premiered we had the BAA. In a regular season, the latter featured fewer teams and the number of games was 60. After that, the NBA has gone through numerous changes and we have received a season with 82 games. What is the main reason behind holding 82 games? Well, there could be a few of them and in this article, we will have a look at these reasons thoroughly.

The format

Before we move to other reasons such as revenue and physical factors there is a clear format according to which the games are held in the NBA. In the NBA we have 2 conferences: Eastern and Western both of which feature 15 teams. Each conference is divided into 3 divisions where there are 5 teams.

Prior to starting the regular season, there is a clear schedule every team has to follow:

  • Each team has to play 4 games against the other 4 division opponents (that is 16 games);
  • 4 games against 6 (out-of-division) conference opponents (that is 24 games);
  • 3 games against the remaining 4 conference teams (that is 12 games);
  • 2 games against teams in the opposing conference (that is 30 games).

In total, we have 82 games. That is the format that is used in a regular season of the NBA. However, there are other factors that determine the number of games in the NBA. Let’s have a look at each of them.


If we take a look at any type of sports, revenue plays an important role. Basketball also counts as one of such sports. The NBA is one of the most-watched leagues in the world. The number of games helps to earn more money. According to statistics owners earn over $170 million per year and that is $2.1 million roughly per one game. We should not forget that these games are also broadcast on TV in various countries which also brings additional income. In short, money is the main reason why more games are played in a single season of the NBA.

If we compare basketball to other team games such as the NFL or soccer, these two sports have a possibility to hold more viewers. Basketball stadiums have less capacity, so it is important to have more games to gain additional income

Physical Requirements

The number of games in sports is directly proportional to the physical side of a particular sport. For example, the NFL is definitely the most physical sport in the world, thus it has way fewer games than the NBA. At the same time the MLB, which is the least physical game only has 162 games. The NBA in its turn is a moderately physical game and the amount of 82 games has its own purpose. Imagine if there were 58 games (that is each team was to play home and away games against the other teams). Leaders of the team would be forced to take every game seriously, resulting in their fatigue. Thus 82 games ensure that top players can look after their health and keep themselves for the playoffs.


In the past years, the NBA has become a global phenomenon, and it not a surprising fact. More and more people outside the United States are watching this incredible game. Different countries have already purchased the rights to show the NBA on their televisions and it is a source of making additional money. The global reach of the NBA has made it possible to attract more customers. More than 100 countries have NBA games available.

Interest in recent years has also grown in the NBA. Countries that are not particularly popular in basketball have produced players with good results and the citizens from these countries are willing to support their players.


It may seem something unreasonable to consider when we are talking about a schedule of NBA games but traditions play an important role in any activity. The NBA established itself as a league that followed a pattern for several years. Even if the number of teams is reduced at some points it is unlikely that the league will overturn its decision and introduce fewer games. The 2011/2012 season was exceptional. Because of the lockout, when the NBA season started later in December, teams had to play fewer games. But such things happen rarely.

Advantages of 82-games format

We should also pay attention to the fact that an 82-game schedule comes with several advantages. In the modern NBA, we have superstars and we would like to see them more frequently competing against each other. Watching games when LeBron James and Kevin Durant are playing is both profitable and enjoyable to watch.

Final Words

Which one is better? Having an 82-game schedule or fewer games? It is a difficult question to answer as both sides have their pros and cons. From a viewer’s perspective, it is a better idea to have more games available to watch stars playing against each other. However, at the same time players are also tired of participating in such a lot of games. It is unlikely that the format will change in the future – at least for now.