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OHS Observer

Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

Stanford Online High School's student run news site

OHS Observer

A Distraction or Game-Changer? NBA’s New In-Season Tournament Sparks Controversy and Excitement in the OHS Community

The six groups that were randomly decided for the in-season tournament.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is facing a major problem: fewer people are interested in watching basketball. During its peak in the 90’s with Michael Jordan, Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals had nearly 35.89 million viewers at the time, close to nearly the entire population of California. In the 2021-2022 season with Steph Curry seeking his fourth championship, viewership in Game 6 reached a maximum of 13.99 million. 


Watching an 82-game regular season that lasts 7 months can be exhausting and frustrating. On top of this, fans find that games are not worth watching either because superstars are sitting out due to load management or the team has no intention of winning at all. 


“As a fan, it does take away from the game,” Chase Wong, a Golden State Warriors fan from OHS, said. “I try to go to games, and it’s a bummer when one of the guys is out either because of an extended injury period or a lot of the times, it’s simply back-to-back games.” 


For example, the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks faced off this year as the best teams in their respective conferences. Everyone looked forward to reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokić going against former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although this game could significantly influence the MVP race and potentially serve as a finals preview, the Nuggets did not play their entire starting lineup.

Star players like Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo will be participating in the tournament. (Erik Drost)

Noah Balough, another Golden State Warriors fan from OHS, recounts his personal experience with stars sitting out: “I went to a game in 2019 and it was my first ever Warriors game. We spent so much money to even get in the building, and it was so sad to see that Steph Curry wasn’t playing even when he wasn’t injured.” 


Recently, to address the issues of load management and decreasing viewership, commissioner Adam Silver decided to spice things up by implementing an in-season tournament. Currently, the NBA consists of 15 teams in the Eastern conference and 15 teams in the Western conference. Each conference will be divided into three groups of five teams, which were randomly generated based on team records from the previous regular season. From November 3rd to November 28th, teams play once against each opponent in their group, and these games will count towards their regular season record. The teams with the best record from each of the six groups and two wildcards advance to the Knockout Round. The wildcards consist of one Eastern and one Western conference team who did not win their group but had the best record of the remaining teams. The quarter finals happen from December 4th-5th, and then the remaining four teams play in the semifinals and finals in Las Vegas on December 7th and 9th respectively. 


“I’m pretty excited about it, especially considering where it’s placed, just getting people more engaged during this part of the season, I think it could be great in terms of entertainment and providing more drama in the NBA world.”

— Chase Wong


Each player on the winning team will earn $500k, $200k for the runner-up, $100k for the semifinal losers and $50k for the quarterfinal losers. For nearly 57% of NBA players, $500k will be more than 10% of their annual salary, providing them with an incentive to play and win the tournament. 


“I’m pretty excited about it,” Wong said. “Especially considering where it’s placed, just getting people more engaged during this part of the season, I think it could be great in terms of entertainment and providing more drama in the NBA world.” 


This new tournament received mixed reactions from the NBA community. Some fans are optimistic that this will make the first half of the season more interesting by motivating players to participate in more games. 


“Even in the season, there are a lot of times where you see strategic missing out on games because they are not important,” Juni Kim, a Brooklyn Nets fan from OHS, said. “The in-season tournament is going to make so-called ‘dead’ games more active and interesting.” 


However, some fans are not as thrilled. They believe that whether the tournament is worth watching or not heavily depends on whether the NBA’s star players will care about it. The question revolves around whether big names will genuinely invest their energy and competitive fire in the tournament, as their performance influences the narrative of the league and fan engagement. 


“Let’s be honest. In the NBA, the goal is a championship and that’s what it’s always been,” Balough said, “I think suddenly telling the players and fans that there should be something else we should care about won’t drive that much excitement.”


Balough shares a sentiment expressed by many in the NBA community. Many debates around player success depend on accolades such as MVP’s, All-NBA appearances, all-star appearances, etc. For players at the top of this conversation, a championship alone could move them up a full tier in the G.O.A.T pyramid. Certain fans believe that as the in-season tournament gains more popularity, it could potentially lower the value and meaning of winning a championship. 


As the NBA currently heads into its 78th season, a championship has been a constant throughout those years. For many players, it can take years for them to even reach the NBA Finals, let alone win it. The dream of lifting the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy while celebrating during a parade only becomes a reality for few. Many question if players will have this same motivation to win the in-season tournament. 


Wong expressed a different stance on this matter: “I feel like it’s not going to take away from the gravity of winning a championship. I don’t think people are going to put so much emphasis on the in-season tournament to the point where the championship is going to be worth less.”


Some people like NBA Insider Bobby Marks suggested that the in-season tournament should have playoff implications to further motivate players. While Adam Silver has considered this proposal, it has not been implemented for this upcoming season. Fans express mixed reactions: 


“I don’t think the tournament should have playoff implications, mainly because it’s played so early in the season,” Wong said. For context, the tournament is played from November to December while the playoffs begin in April. “A team is always working to improve itself throughout the year whether it’s through trades, player development, or coaching decisions.” 


“At least for superstars, the monetary reward from the in-season tournament does not sufficiently motivate them to participate,” Kim said. “It would be interesting to see the winner of the tournament maybe have more wins added to their regular season record using some formula.” 


Adam Silver clearly expressed that the in-season tournament was inspired by cup tournaments in European football leagues. Some fans are curious if the in-season tournament could benefit from allowing teams from leagues around the world to participate as well.


“I really like that idea,” Wong said. “That would be an amazing way to integrate international teams to the NBA. And as we saw in the recent FIBA World Cup, I think it would definitely be competitive.” 


“I think in some ways, it would make the NBA more connected to the rest of the world,” Kim said. “And you can see that NBA players aren’t used to foreign basketball rules because of the isolation between NBA and international basketball.”  


Other fans disagree. “The NBA needs to realize it’s the number one basketball league and works differently than European football,” Balough said. “If international teams start playing here, those teams will earn more money, their leagues can get better players, and the NBA loses its prestigious value and would offer a worse fan experience.” 


The NBA fan base remains divided in their opinions on the in-season tournament. Some view it as a potentially exciting addition to the calendar and boost interest in the league, others see it as a distraction from the playoffs and ultimately the championship. The outcome of this addition will only become more evident as the season progresses and the tournament fixes itself as part of the league. None of this stops enthusiastic fans from predicting the winners and dark-horses: 


“The easy answer would be the Denver Nuggets because they are the championship favorites,” Wong said. “However I could see the OKC Thunder winning.” 


“Let’s go with the Sacramento Kings,” Kim said. “They did pretty good in the regular season last year.”


“I’m a Warriors fan, so I hope the Warriors win of course,” Balough said. “Until someone beats the Nuggets, you gotta go with them.”

The Denver Nuggets celebrate their first ever Larry O’Brien Trophy after winning the 2023 NBA Finals. (Wikimedia Commons)
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