The NBA season is a long, grueling period that wears down its players. With the initial 82-game season, plus the playoffs, some players play basketball at a high level for more than half of the year. It’s rare to see many players play all 82 games anymore, as both players and their respective teams focus on preserving their health for as long as possible.
Just a few years ago, this wasn’t nearly as much of a concern as it is now. The NBA has reduced the workload on their players over the past few years, as they have lowered the number of back-to-backs teams have to play and have allowed teams to usher in the concept of load management. The NBA is best when its best players are on the court, and the league is working on doing what it can to keep them on the court for as many games as possible.
More changes could be on the way, though, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has openly floated the idea of shortening the season to make things easier on the players. It would be a big change to the league’s structure, but once again, it appears the overall goal for the NBA is to have their top players playing as much as they can to help the league continue to grow.
Richard Jefferson is against shortening the NBA season
Decisions like these, where the NBA could be undergoing some profound changes if this happens, are typically quite polarizing, and this has been no different so far. Among those vehemently against the potential shortening of the season is Richard Jefferson. Jefferson believes that the NBA is becoming too soft, and shortening the season will take away from the difficulty of playing basketball at the highest level.
“You want to shorten the season? How much more do we have to make this coddling and all of this stuff go with the players? Professional sports is not good on your body. It’s supposed to separate the people that can do it from the people that can’t do it. Part of greatness is longevity," Jefferson said per NBA on ESPN.
Would the NBA shortening the regular season be a good thing?
Jefferson raises some good points, and he knows what he is talking about. He played 80+ games seven times throughout his 17-year career, only taking days off when he had to. But, again, that’s not something that happens in the league nowadays.
There’s no doubt that shortening the regular season would benefit the players. Giving them more time off throughout the season means they will have more time to rest and recover from all of the basketball they are playing. This helps them stay on the court and keeps the players happy.
The problem is that this will directly impact the NBA and their teams. Erasing games off the schedule means all 30 teams are losing money because they have fewer opportunities to get fans in the stands. Ticket sales and concessions are two of the biggest sources of revenue for NBA clubs, and by taking away their ability to make money during the season, the NBA is inadvertently hurting itself.
Financially, the NBA is in a good place, but we saw with the COVID pandemic that challenges can arise from anywhere and threaten the existence of a league or a team. Many sports leagues and teams are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. Throwing away sources of income seems counterintuitive to what the NBA should be looking to do.
More so than any sports league in the world, the NBA is a players league. That doesn’t mean that everything the players want to happen should happen. Shortening the regular season would only benefit the players, and giving them this sort of pull would also hurt the league. If you give them this, what else will they get in the future?
Jefferson is right that shortening the season comes away as coddling the players because, in a way, it does. Generations of basketball players have gotten through the regular season without complaining because that’s how it goes. These guys are paid millions of dollars to play basketball; they should be trying to play as much as possible.
It’s clear the NBA values their players quite highly, but Jefferson is spot on in his complaints about potentially shortening the season. It feels like a forced move to gain more favor with the players, and fewer games mean less opportunity for the NBA to make money and draw in new fans. If the NBA shortens the regular season in the future, there’s a chance that the players will be running the league rather than Silver himself.