I think most fans would say the U.S. sports calendar has found a nice rhythm between each of the big four sports, that they all have their respective time of year.
Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has other thoughts.
Koonin, at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this week, proposed a new starting date for the NBA schedule: mid-December, rather than mid-October. The NBA Finals, then, would take place in August, rather than June.
Shifting the schedule for any of the big four is quite a proposal, and I don't really care for it.
Koonin explained the idea by arguing that it would let the start of the NBA's regular season avoid competing with the NFL's regular season.
"A big piece is you don't have to reinvent the wheel to enhance ratings," Koonin said, per ESPN. "Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings."
This feels ... technically true, if also maybe misguided. The NBA's early months are normally half-ignored, because the games don't really feel momentous in any way. There are literal dozens of games to make up for slow starts, unlike in the NFL.
But that doesnt feel like a time-of-year problem. Football is only played three times per week. It's more of a structural problem: there are too many dang basketball games. Those games will still be ignorable in December and January, because the feeling that early games aren't very important — not true, but fans feel this way! — will still exist.
Plus, moving the league's timeline creates other conflicts.
The most pressing one, to my eye, would be the timing of free agency. The NBA has turned free agency from a marginal discussion into a year-round industry, and the current start of free agency in early July is a destination day for all sports fans in large part because it only faces off with the slog of July baseball. It's become one of the biggest days in the NBA calendar, because of the reality TV-style intrigue but also because of its seasonal advantage.
If you bump everything back two months, the start of NBA free agency is suddenly up against ... the start of the NFL regular season.
There's nothing wrong with the NBA's current start, and end, dates. The league begins as baseball ends, and as football's initial wave of excitement for all 32 fanbases starts to wane. Playoff races heat up in the New Year, as football thins interest even more, and the postseason thrives as baseball shuffles through the first month of its eternal regular season.
If you want to inject the NBA regular season with more consistent interest, shorten it. Otherwise, please just leave it alone.
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