The NBA pulled off a remarkable feat this summer by successfully finishing its season and playoffs in the Orlando “bubble” that it spent $400 million or so to create and execute.
The enemy, however, won’t go away, and with U.S. COVID-19 cases at high levels, the league is facing a massive loss during the upcoming season – whether that starts in December or in January.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said a rough combination of dynamics (no fans, a later start to the season) could cause the red ink to flow. Of course, don’t forget the factor Wojnarowski didn’t mention: tanking TV ratings.
From Wojnarowski: “And … the NBA fears delaying the start of the 2020-21 season until January could cost the league an additional $500 million to $1 billion in revenue losses next season and beyond, sources said.”
The league would like to start on Dec. 22. That starting point would allow for at least a 72-game season and a guarantee of Christmas Day TV games – very lucrative for the league – and would avoid running up against the Tokyo Olympics (if that event goes forward, of course).
Players, who would stand to lose a big number in salaries because of the collective bargaining agreement’s 50-50 revenue split between the league and players, are not all on board with a December start.
The Orlando bubble ended fewer than two months before Dec. 1, when training camps would open.
National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts has doubted whether most players want such a quick turnaround, preferring later options such as a start date of mid-January for the regular season.
Questions remain about how to divide a rapidly shrinking pie.
The NBA and NBPA each collect half of basketball-related income, but the NBA’s revenue was down 10% to $8.3 billion for the 2019-20 season, according to league data.