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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 21, 2024

NBA In-Season Tournament: A format other leagues should learn from

The tournament is just one of the various tactics the NBA has employed in hopes of increasing viewership and fan interest, and it’s an innovative strategy that sports leagues around the nation should potentially adopt.

For the first time in the NBA’s 77-year history, the league adopted an in-season tournament involving all 30 teams for the 2023-2024 season. The tournament had been in the works for around 15 years, but it finally became a reality this season, primarily thanks to the efforts of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The tournament is just one of the various tactics the NBA has employed in hopes of increasing viewership and fan interest, and it’s an innovative strategy that sports leagues around the nation should potentially adopt.

The NBA in-season tournament was broken into six five-team groups (three per conference) based on teams’ 2022-2023 regular season records. After being assigned to a group, similar to the FIFA World Cup, the tournament follows a round-robin format for four games. Following group play, the best team from each group, plus the two best-performing second-place teams, move on to an eight-team single-elimination tournament, which determines the winner. Each player on the winning team receives $500,000. 

At first, the new creation was unpopular among most NBA fans, who complained that winning the tournament had no significance in making the playoffs and that players wouldn’t take the tournament seriously. However, as the tournament progressed, interest skyrocketed. By the time the Lakers won the championship game, NBA players and fans considered it a massive success. The Championship game averaged 4.58 million viewers — numbers that hadn’t been met in over six years.

Junior Diya Mullick, an NBA fan, enjoyed watching the games. The tournament increased competitiveness and eliminated the lack of excitement many fans often experience during the middle of the season, she said.

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“I liked how the tournament made each game more significant even though they were just regular season games,” Mullick said. “The tournament also gave younger, developing teams, like the Indiana Pacers, an opportunity to showcase their progress by advancing through the tournament.”

Based on the recent boom in viewership/interest in the NBA, a result of the NBA’s in-season tournament, it should be clear to other professional leagues that employing similar strategies would make seasons more engaging.

For instance, baseball would greatly benefit from implementing a similar tournament. With 162 games in the MLB’s regular season, it’s easy for fans to lose interest halfway through the season. Additionally, having so many games significantly decreases each game’s importance in regards to making the playoffs. To combat this, the MLB should adopt an all-inclusive tournament during the regular season, preferably on the earlier side, when weaker teams are still driven to win games.

Some may argue that an MLB in-season tournament’s insignificance towards the playoffs would result in teams restricting their players during tournament games, inhibiting the competitiveness and excitement that the games are designed to promote. As it is, teams are already limiting their best arms from pitching in all-star games, and big-name players are consistently taking load management games throughout the season. A potential solution to these worries would be to incentivize the championship. 

For example, if the tournament-winning team is automatically favored in tie-breakers in playoff seeding, each early and mid-season game would instantly become more competitive, and teams would play their best possible rosters in hopes of gaining an advantage later in the season. Additionally, if the MLB decided to include a monetary prize for each player on the winning team, like the NBA, star players would be more likely to play than sit out to rest.

Zach Cantor, a junior, has followed baseball his entire life. It’s become difficult to stay interested in the MLB throughout the season because of how long and repetitive the schedule is, he said.  

“Once the regular season gets past the first few weeks, the games become dull and lacking in energy, especially if your team isn’t very good,” Cantor said. “If the MLB implemented an in-season tournament, I would most likely start watching a lot more regular season games and not just playoff games, which are usually much more exciting.”

The NBA isn’t the first league to come up with tournament-style play during the regular season. The MLS(Major League Soccer) adopted the Leagues Cup in 2019 as a competition involving both MLS and Liga MX teams, a “World Cup-style tournament” that halted the regular season for a month. Even though the games didn’t count towards season-long standings, the tournament gained massive traction from fans worldwide. 

The Leagues Cup made the experience more worthwhile for fans and helped draw attention to the MLS — a league that has consistently struggled to keep up with the more prestigious leagues in Europe.

The NHL would also benefit significantly from a similar tournament. Like the MLS, the NHL has struggled to garner viewers and interest in the sport. The NHL only averages about 700,000 viewers per regular season game, while the NBA averages nearly triple that, at roughly two million. With the addition of an in-season tournament, the NHL would be introducing an event already familiar to millions of NBA fans around the world, which would have the potential to draw significantly more attention to the league.

Additionally, the NHL could showcase young and upcoming talent, such as 18-year-old Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard. The added attention would spark more interest and excitement surrounding hockey in NHL fans of all ages, similar to how NBA stars like Steph Curry and Lebron James bring kids and parents to the basketball court.

Whether or not other sports leagues choose to implement the NBA’s new strategy of a tournament in the middle of the regular season, there’s no doubt that the event has had a colossal impact on basketball fans all over the world. 

When it comes to watching other sports, superfans are often reluctant to go out of their comfort zone and indulge in watching a sport unfamiliar to them. However, an in-season tournament can be a perfect introduction to watching the sport and spark interest. 

“If I were to take up watching another sport besides the NBA, seeing the athletes compete with each other in meaningful tournament-style games would definitely boost my interest in continuing to follow the sport,” Mullick said.

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About the Contributor
Elliott Brown, Sports Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I enjoy writing and wanted to cover things going on in the Whitman community, specifically sports. What is your favorite song of all time? Jungle, Drake

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