The NBA lifts the uncertain curtain on a COVID-delayed 2020-21 season Tuesday night with a pair of nationally televised games, while facing revenue shortfalls and once more battling the global pandemic.
The TNT doubleheader features Golden State at Brooklyn followed by the Los Angeles Clippers vs. LeBron James and the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers.
While the league’s revenue dropped 10% to $8.3 billion, according to numbers shared with teams and obtained by ESPN, the adjustments executed by the National Basketball Players Association and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver helped to soften the blow.
Among the leading decisions was the coronavirus testing program and the “bubble” in Orlando that hosted the conclusion of the 2019-20 season and the playoffs.
While the financial losses have included $800 million in gate receipts and a $400 million loss in sponsorships and merchandise, according to ESPN sources, the success in testing continues.
In the second round of COVID-19 testing since players returned to their home markets and began practices, only one new player – out of 549 tested – was found to be positive for the virus, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania last week.
The league is far from out of the woods, however.
The 2020-21 revenue losses could be staggering if fans aren’t part of the equation. The league warned teams of a projected 40% loss in overall revenue, or $4 billion.
Only a handful of teams are allowing limited numbers of spectators into venues, arenas won’t carry the “Black Lives Matter” slogans on courts, nor will players wear jerseys carrying social justice messages.
The Toronto Raptors, the 2019 NBA champions, will play home games in Tampa, Florida, after Canadian authorities denied the NBA an exemption to their restrictions placed on travel to and from the United States.