The Case for Cutting: Why the NBA Should Shorten Its Season



Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving holds his leg after being injured during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball semifinals game against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Milwaukee. (Los Angeles Times)

Written By Ben Goldman

One of the topics that comes up many times in conversations with NBA diehards is the length of the schedule. Some want to shorten it, some want to keep it the same, and some even want to lengthen it. The current NBA schedule is 82 games which is too many. The NBA should shorten its season as it would reduce injury risk, increase fan interest, and make regular season games much more competitive. 

One of the reasons for shortening the season is the injury risk 82 games provides for the players. The NBA season lasts from October to April. That is 6 straight months of working out with almost no rest, an unhealthy plan for the human body. Per PubMed Central, almost 20% of NBA players that play regularly in games get injured over the course of the NBA season, a brutally high number. Allowing the body more rest can be colossally impactful for player health, and lengthening players’ careers, as demonstrated by Michael Jordan who took 1.5 years off of playing basketball to try professional baseball. While his baseball career did not work out, it gave his body extra time to rest so he could still be playing great into his 30s. Most players in the NBA start to regress, and become less athletic by the time they hit the age of 30, but Jordan never stopped being athletic or great. Some of his greatest dunks came in his 30s, and he also led his Chicago Bulls to three straight championships starting from when he was 32 years old. Jeff Stotts, an independent professional athletic trainer, feels a shorter schedule would help the players’ health. “I think they should… shorten next season’s schedule.” Based on Stotts’ assertion, one could conclude that he believes fewer games will put less stress on players’ bodies and will reduce injury risk. Also, shortening the season allows star players to be healthier and fresher heading into the playoffs, making the playoffs more impactful and more exciting for fans.

Another reason the NBA should shorten its season is because a shortened schedule will increase fan interest throughout the regular season and the playoffs. The NFL has the shortest season of any major American professional sports association, while also bringing in the most revenue. While this is partly due to its massive stadiums allowing as many fans to attend every game than the largest NBA stadium could allow every four games, it is also partly due to the amount of fans watching on the television. According to Statista, an average of 16.7 million fans tune into each NFL game per week compared to the NBA’s 1.6 million viewers per game, a whopping 15.1 million difference. Part of this is due to each game mattering in the NFL. As they only play sixteen games, each one is incredibly important to make the playoffs, while NBA teams only have to win about half of their 82 games to make the playoffs. Most die hard fans do not even tune into each of their teams games. Shortening the season will provide more incentive to watch a fan’s favorite team’s games, as each game will definitely matter for playoff standing. 82 games is also an unnecessary number to find the best teams. In most seasons, the top four teams in each conference are known by the halfway point in the season, and the NBA’s seven game playoff series do not normally lead to many upsets. A shortened season would also reduce load management, allowing fans to see their favorite players playing in almost every game, a major factor in fan interest. It will also again reduce the amount of injuries, allowing more star players to play, and thus increasing fan interest because the fans will get to see their favorite players more regularly.

A final reason for why the NBA should shorten its season is because it will make regular season games more competitive. During some NBA games, the players look like they are not giving their all for the first couple of quarters, and that is okay with the current schedule length because one loss does not make a great impact. If the NBA season was shortened, each game would matter, and fans would get to see the best of players every game. Each basket would matter for playoff position, and teams would put their best players out each and every night. If each game was competitive, that would increase fan interest, and in turn, increase revenue creating a cycle that would allow the NBA to sustain the shortened season. The decrease of load management would also make games much more competitive, and allow stars to form more bitter rivalries because they won’t be sitting on the bench when they play another star. One of the few current rivalries in the NBA is the rivalry between Devin Booker and Luka Doncic. The budding rivals could have played four games against each other, but instead played only three, due to Luka barely playing, and Booker sitting out entirely. While missing one game doesn’t seem like a huge deal, Suns vs Mavericks games are some of the most exciting of the whole season because of how much these young stars dislike each other, so missing any games is very disappointing for fans.