NBA Financial Distress


Amanda Chang, Staff Writer

As the Los Angeles Lakers brought home the championships in October, the 2019-20 season for the National Basketball Association (NBA) came to a close. However, ending the season during a pandemic turned out to be quite costly for the league. 

The NBA “missed revenue projections by $1.5 billion and 14% of the regular season wasn’t played because of the pandemic—meaning players lost roughly the same percentage of their salaries,” reported the Associated Press.

Although the league had a decline in revenue for its past season, it may have even more trouble gaining revenue for the season ahead. Because the association was already about three-quarters through its 2019-2020 season before the pandemic skyrocketed and things were locked-down, the NBA had already been able to get five months’ worth of gameday-related revenue. But, the upcoming season might not be able to start regularly, and fans might not be able to attend games at all.

“A total absence of fans and the need to play a shortened 72-game schedule to realign the NBA’s typical calendar would cost the league approximately $4 billion of revenue. That’s a massive hit for a league with $8 billion in annual revenue,” said The Washington Post.

This drop in revenue would probably cause the salaries of players and others in the league to drop drastically in the future, and as the pandemic continues, the national economy has also dropped increasingly, which could cause television ratings and merchandise sales to drop too. Plus,  if the upcoming season is not played in a “bubble”, players have a greater chance of catching COVID-19, thus causing those around the infected player to quarantine and games to be postponed or canceled.

Because of this decline in revenue as well as some other factors, such as finishing the season before the 2021 Olympics, the NBA has begun planning the framework of the 2020-2021 season and has set Dec. 22 as a possible start date. 

This date would “satisfy [the NBA’s] television partners and make up as much ground as possible before the NBA’s television and media rights deals end in 2025,” according to The Washington Post.

Dec. 22 is also right before Christmas and other winter holidays, where viewers have winter break to watch the games while the media can sell a number of ads, among other things, to help the league get back on its feet.

Some players, such as the LA Lakers’ LeBron James, have argued that a December start date is too early, as players need to recuperate from the previous season, which concluded in October, as well as train for the upcoming season.

While some teams, like the LA Lakers and Miami Heat, have just ended their season in October, eight teams have not played since March, and over half the teams in the league have not played since the first week of September. Additionally, if the start date were extended to even just January, $1 billion could be lost, reported ESPN.

As the NBA works to begin the next season and rebuild its revenue, the pandemic still rages on, affecting all in the league.


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