From safety to finances, fans wonder about the fate of the NBA’s season
A hotly contested topic among National Basketball Association (NBA) fans is whether or not the season should be postponed due to the large number of players being infected with COVID-19. Pushing through the remainder of the season will result in the league generating more income, allowing its players to continue as normal. However, there are safety concerns, as many players have caught the virus on and off the court.
First, one must consider the health implications this may have on the players. Players have caught COVID-19 from other teams across the league, and eventually one of these cases may lead to a player getting really sick. Also, due to the condensed season schedule, more players are playing back-to-back sets, meaning players are getting injured more frequently.
Some matches have also been completely one-sided since some teams had to play with less players due to quarantine protocols and an increase in injuries. Notably, the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat have recently played games with only eight players instead of the usual 15 that teams can dress on any given night due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 protocols. The 76ers in particular only had seven players because they activated Mike Scott from the injured reserve a game early in order to have the minimum requirement of eight players in their game.
It is unfair to teams who just so happened to have a player catch the virus, especially if all their players were following the NBA protocols correctly. The league should consider postponing games more often to level the playing field, because being unlucky with COVID-19 cases for a small period could derail a team’s playoff hopes.
Oftentimes, a player tests positive for the virus, and since they have been in contact with the other players on the roster, some of those contacts must also enter a mandatory quarantine.
The Heat, for example, had an even record before losing a large portion of their roster to the pandemic protocols and since have had a record of 2-3, including a devastating 120-100 loss to the last-place Detroit Pistons. Some games were postponed for the team, but they are still missing some of their most important players and have had to go into some games shorthanded.
Financially, however, it makes sense to push through the season. By doing so, the league may be able to recuperate some of the lost income they accrued by not being able to have fans in most arenas.
A significant portion of the league’s revenue is generated through hosting games in arenas around North America, which means the league is now relying on television ratings and NBA League Pass subscriptions for their revenues. Television revenues in all sports have been in decline for various reasons; for example, some leagues chose to have some early kickoff times while the majority of at-home spectators had work. As well, during prime time this year due to the pandemic, there was a period of time when the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL all had games. Usually, only two or three of these leagues are occurring at the same time, therefore people had to pick and choose which sport to watch on a given night.
Also, doing this would allow the league to keep player salaries and the salary cap consistent. If players’ salaries end up being affected by the pandemic, players may go on strike and a lockout situation may be initiated, like we have seen previously in the NHL and other sports leagues.
The NBA has rules in place which should be able to mitigate the spread of the virus amongst its players. However, there have been issues with players obeying the rules. Players such as James Harden and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets have been known to go to bars and clubs, even though league rules specifically state to avoid these locations.
Postponing the NBA season would create more complications in terms of league finances and player salaries, but perhaps postponement is still the best option, as it might save some upcoming problems. There are strong cases on either side of the issue, and it is important to weigh the costs versus the benefits of such a move.
A small shutdown for a couple of weeks may help to get the players who are currently quarantined under the NBA’s health and safety protocols virus-free, but as long as COVID-19 is still impacting North America, the league will likely not be able to get back to normal.
Graphic by Taylor Reddam