Perspective: NBA Should Move to a 64-Game Season

by Noah Bair ‘24

There is no doubt that in today’s NBA, team defense and individual player effort are at an all-time low. Since the 2011-12 season, average points scored in a game has gone up by 40, the highest 12 year jump in the league’s history. Players simply don’t care enough to play defense and put the effort in that is required, and something needs to change.

TV ratings have certainly shown that not only do players care less about the game, but so do the fans. NBA games on Christmas, a holiday which they usually dominate in the ratings, were down almost 73 percent in viewership this year. The NFL and college basketball lead among viewers over the months of December and January, and it’s very clear why: their seasons are much shorter than the NBA, so every game matters much more.

While every NBA team plays 82 games, each NFL team plays just 17 games in a season while college basketball teams only play 31. In the NFL and college basketball, losing a few games in a row could end a team’s chances of making the postseason. In the NBA, teams can very easily lose many games in a row and still recover to compete for a championship. For this reason, players recognize that regular season games aren’t as important as in other sports and fans recognize that regular season games don’t matter a lot, and are watching them less and less every year.

In addition to making it more entertaining for fans and making each game matter more, shortening the season by 18 games would greatly decrease the number of injuries each year. Games could be spanned further away from each other and give players more time to rest in between games. Instead of having star players miss games for “rest” or even play but not give full effort, those players will be able to play at 100 percent effort knowing they won’t have to play again the very next day.

If the league does choose to shorten the season, there will certainly be an outcry from fans who miss their team playing their rivals more often, but there is a simple way to deal with this. The NBA can easily replicate this by having each team play every other team twice, with each team having three “protected rivals” that they place four times each year instead of only twice. For example, the Lakers might have the Clippers, the Warriors, and the Celtics as their protected rivals who they play four times each year.

If the NBA wants to protect its players and make the league a more entertaining product for its consumers, a change needs to be made. A shortened season would rejuvenate the league’s popularity to what it once was and make it so that the NBA can once again be a league where the fans and players are both equally engaged and committed.