NBA caught in COVID conundrum


NBA wants to start new season in January 2021 Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner, Adam Silver, told before mediapersons that his “best guess” is that a start of the 2020-21 seasons will now not arrive until at least January 2021.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is an American men’s professional basketball league. It is composed of 30 teams and is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. It is the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.

Sliding back from an originally projected restart date of December 1st amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – which has not stopped pounding the United States – was but expected after Silver on an earlier occasion stating that the date was “feeling a little bit early to me” and the NBA Draft was subsequently shifted by 33 days to a new date of November 18th.

The NBA draft is an annual event dating back to 1947 in which the teams from the National Basketball Association can draft players who are eligible and wish to join the league. These are typically college basketball players, but international players are also eligible to be drafted.

With the league now in its conference finals amid the quarantined restart in Orlando, Florida (US), Silver confirmed anticipated delays for the 2020-21 campaign, but made it clear that the league still intends to play a full 82-game regular season.

Silver, however, said that a lot of questions remain open-ended that must be answered before the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) finalize a 2020-21 schedule, very similar to the mindset currently assumed by the National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner, Gary Bettman.

The National Basketball Players Association is a labor union that represents NBA players. It was founded in 1954, making it the oldest trade union of the four major North American professional sports leagues.

Asserted Silver, “The more I am learning…I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans.”

“There’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example. Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings? Will there be other protections?” he questioned.

The economic stakes of the NBA’s restart decision, like in the case of other major American pro sports properties, is massive as the league in a normal season generates about 40 percent of its previously projected annual revenue of more than $8bn with fans in attendance.

The NHL does not want to disrupt the scheduling plans of media rights partner NBC Sports next summer surrounding the Tokyo Olympics, and similar timing concerns is also shared by the NBA as they do not want to stand in the way of the global spectacle.

To be more specific, the adjusted timing of the next NBA season may translate into the fact that NBA top guns will not be able to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, which is set to run from July 23rd to August 8th, 2021. The NBA has participated in every Summer Olympics since 1992 in Barcelona, which saw the debut of the famed ‘Dream Team’.

The 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, nicknamed the ‘Dream Team’, was the first American Olympic team to feature active professional players from the NBA. The team has been described by journalists around the world as the greatest sports team ever assembled.

A typical NBA season features a regular season of nearly six months followed by a two-month postseason. As a result, starting the next NBA season in early January could mean a conclusion won’t arrive until August.

Silver further told mediapersons, “There are a lot of great US players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing. And obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics for other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through.”

“These are highly unique and unusual circumstances. And I think just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. And we’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations,” Silver added.

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