Being the most popular basketball league in the world, the NBA has attracted the attention of numerous spectators around the world. In addition to being one of the most prominent sports competitions, the NBA season is known for being too lengthy, with matches held almost every day.
Why is the NBA season so long? During a regular season, there are 82 matches that start in the middle of October and last until April. After that, we have playoffs, which eventually ends in June and in total there are 8 months of playing in the NBA.
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Such a lengthy NBA season has frequently drawn criticism both from players and coaches. There are concerns about injuries, fatigue and overall performance. We will further explore the reasons behind the season’s lengthiness and its implications.
Too many games
NBA players have often complained about the length of the season. There are 82 games in a regular season which is too much for teams. Because there are 82 matches, the season lasts for almost 6 months! The 2020/2021 season was an exception recently when each team had to play 72 matches because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season started late and finished late as well. Holding 72 matches is an idea for future seasons as well, but there has not been a final conclusion so far. In the 2011/2012 NBA season, because of the lockout, the season also started late but finished normally, as the amount of games was reduced.
Because there are so many matches held in the NBA, the viewership is at its high. Spectators from Europe and the United States watch matches regularly. From a spectator’s perspective, it is always a good idea to watch as many matches as possible but sometimes players get injuries and fatigue affects their performance.
The NBA has experienced some decline in viewership in recent years. However, even with Covid-19 roaming, which was one of the main reasons the NBA was halted for almost 6 months, the NBA managed to recover fully and got back on track rapidly.
After the regular season is finished we have the playoffs, where eight teams from each conference compete in the bo7 (best of seven) format. In the series, a particular team needs to win 4 matches to close the series. Sometimes, if all 7 matches are held, the playoffs become protracted which further add to the lengthiness of the season.
The 2020/2021 season was innovative in the sense that the play-in tournament was introduced. Instead of 8 teams that directly qualify for the playoffs spot the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places in both Western and Eastern conferences played against each other that determined the final entries in the playoffs. This is a format that garnered a lot of support and is likely to be adopted for future seasons as well.
After the winner is determined and the playoffs are over, players have almost 4 months of a break before another season starts. This helps them to recover after a tiring season. If there are national tournaments such as the Olympics, World Cup, or other domestic tournaments, players might have even less time to rest, as they are called in respective national teams.
What are the implications of a lengthy season?
A lengthy season that lasts almost 8 months has a lot of implications on every team. We will have a look at some of them below.
More matches mean more load on each player especially if we are talking about the best players who play 40 minutes or more in a single game. Because there are so many matches players frequently become injured, which results in being sidelined for a long time. To avoid such situations, injury-prone players are rested for several games. For example, Kawhi Leonard, who had a long history of injuries was rested for 20 games to preserve him in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Leonard was still injured in the playoffs, which shattered the Clippers’ chances of reaching the finals.
When players have to play a match almost every second day this affect their performance. They become fatigued, their stamina decreases and eventually for the playoffs, they are simply worn out. As we have already mentioned above, for an ordinary fan, watching matches on TV, more games are better for entertainment but unfortunately, athletes become too exhausted, meaning that they cannot show their best performance in the playoffs.
72 games – a solution for the problem?
Reducing the number of matches can technically result in improved performance and players can have some time to rest. Cutting the NBA season short to 72 matches was proposed in the 2020/2021 regular season, as the coronavirus pandemic significantly troubled the sports industry. This is something that the NBA considers incorporating in the future. In such a way, the NBA will avoid the cases when players are deliberately sitting out for the upcoming games. However, if the NBA shortens the season, it will result in less revenue, which teams probably do not want to face.
Are other American sports lengthy as well?
The NBA season is not long compared to the MLB, which is another really popular sport in the United States. More than 2000 games are held, which is nowhere close to basketball. The NHL also has 82 games similar to the NBA and lasts almost the same period as its counterpart.
As for the NFL, the season consists of 272 games spanning 18 weeks. It normally starts on the 9th of September.