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How the Coronavirus could reform the NBA



As society looks to stem the coronavirus tide while also preventing another Great Depression, individuals are proposing all sorts of reforms. Ideas like voting by mail, universal basic income, and changing our healthcare system have become more popular. And as sports leagues like the NBA deal with the short and long-term ramifications, changes will have to be made in order to keep the virus from spreading even after the initial lockdowns end.

The NBA needs to balance public health with the economic reality that the league could lose $1 billion in lost games and ticket sales according to The Washington Post. Here are some ideas for how the NBA could change over the longer time to handle these problems and create a better league.

Changing the Calendar

In an interview with ESPN last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suggested that the NBA season could begin on Christmas instead of the typical start date around Halloween. A potential scenario is that the current NBA season may resume in June, the NBA Finals would be held in August or September, and then the offseason, free agency, and the draft would happen over the fall.

The NBA did begin on Christmas Day during the 2011-12 season due to a lockout, and the result was a compressed schedule and the resumption of the traditional NBA calendar afterwards. But NBA analysts have discussed the possibility of the NBA permanently opening on Christmas Day. The primary advantage is that the initial NBA games during the Halloween to Christmas period do not attract much attention as it is early in the season and the NBA finds itself competing with the NFL regular season for viewers.

It used to be that the NBA did not wish to play into July or August, as the idea was that viewership would drop as people went on vacation and such. But in a more connected world, this becomes less of a concern.

Professional Players and the Olympics

While the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed until next year, as well as many MMA and kickboxing events, the idea of changing the NBA schedule from December to August or September raises major questions about the sporting event. NBA players on playoff teams would no longer be able to play in the Olympics for any country. Even if an NBA team was knocked out of the playoffs right before the Olympics began, it is likely that the stars on that team would not want to jump straight into another major tournament.

But while the NBA may revise their schedule, the NCAA certainly will not. This means that we could see the return of Olympic basketball being played with NCAA or G-League players. The result would be a more competitive Olympic basketball landscape instead of Team USA bringing in stars to win golds as has happened in the past few Olympics. Whether fans would appreciate this change is another matter.

A New Kind of Tournament?

Last December, the NBA proposed a rule change which would have seen the season cut to 78 games and mid-season tournament held to determine the final playoff seedings. The proposal was initially set to be discussed in April, before this pandemic changed everything.

But the pandemic has made the idea of a tournament more popular. There have been proposals that this season conclude not with a months-long playoff battle which will have many people in close contact with one another, but rather with a smaller tournament which might even be 3-on-3. And if the league enacts a tournament now, the idea of a tournament could stay popular in future seasons.

Of course, there is the real possibility that this NBA season ends completely, with no title winner and a lost year for players who have short careers. But the virus will likely change how our society and the NBA conducts its business, as everyone attempts to preserve our economic and public health.