The NBA lifted the uncertain curtain on a COVID-delayed tip to its 2020-’21 season Tuesday night with a pair of nationally televised games, facing revenue shortfalls and once more battling the global pandemic.
The TNT doubleheader featured Golden State getting crushed by Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, followed by the L.A. Clippers beating the Lakers on the night the NBA champs received their championship rings.
While the league’s revenue dropped 10% to $8.3 billion in 2020, according to numbers shared with teams and obtained by ESPN, the adjustments executed by the players association and 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 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 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 are not 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, and 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, Fla., after Canadian authorities denied the NBA an exemption to its restrictions placed on travel to and from the U.S.