Adam Silver, NBA commissioner.
On the eve of a new season, the National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that his league wouldn’t cross the line on receiving Covid-19 vaccines as the NBA tries to normalize its business.
The NBA returns Tuesday for its 2020-21 campaign. The league opted for a shortened season of 72 games as the pandemic had interrupted the previous season, which, as usual, ended in October instead of June. The NBA will attempt to end this season before the Tokyo Olympics begin in July 2021 and adjust to a more normal off-season before restarting in October 2021.
The NBA pulled out two strong players to start their new season. It will feature the Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets versus his former team, the Golden State Warriors, and the return of their star Stephen Curry.
The second match: The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers welcomes the Clippers, their cross-down rivals. That match was predicted as a preview of the Western Conference finals, but Steve Ballmer’s team struck early last year despite country stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
On Friday, the NBA line-up on Christmas Day features international superstars including Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee Bucks, Luka Doncic from Dallas Mavericks and Nikola Jokic from Denver.
Silver’s League is in a great position to enter a post-Covid world. The NBA is more diverse with competing teams and stars are spread out. The remaining job is to manage a season when the Covid pandemic is worse than when the league resumed in July.
“We are confident we can do it,” said Silver on his media call on Monday. “And if it weren’t for us, we wouldn’t have started. I will say, however, that we expect there will be bumps on the road along the way.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, receives the Cova-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. during an event in the Masur Auditorium of the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the United States, on Tuesday, December 22, 2020.
Patrick Smeansky | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Support the vaccine
Silver mentioned that the NBA would be assisting “government public news efforts” to promote the safety of receiving the vaccine and acknowledged the skepticism some have about the treatment.
“For me, there is a large group that I would put in the undecided about the vaccine category,” he said. “I understand there is a cohort who are strongly against vaccines and I think there will be ways to break that.
“But I think there is a much larger group of people who are just waiting, and I hope the potential workers get their vaccines, the healthcare workers, and then the elderly and then the people.” see that this is done safely and successfully, that the NBA community will embrace vaccines when it is our turn. “
The NBA expects Covid vaccines to be more prevalent by April, in time for the postseason that’s slated to begin in May. Until then, local governments may give more teams the green light to open arenas as the playoff revenues are beneficial to the teams.
“Getting the fans back into the arena is a huge priority,” said Silver. About six teams can start watching on Tuesday as Florida and Texas allow some fans to play. “I have a feeling that we will learn a lot when we have regular season games with fans there.”
Considering expansion or relocation
The NBA raised $ 900 million to back teams this year and the pandemic losses are expected to continue in the short term without fans.
Beyond this season, the league could help make up the difference by adding more teams, which brings with it expansion fees. Silver said the NBA had stepped up discussions on the issue, but added that they were still concerned about economic issues related to the pandemic and the downturn.
Wholesale clubs like New York Knicks – a team with no star power with consecutive seasonal losses, brand and image problems – can still make profits. Most clubs, however, suffer financially from slow business cycles, which would be the case for any expansion team.
“I think I always said there was some kind of overt fate in the league that you eventually expand,” said Silver. “I’d say it made us wipe away some of the analysis of the economic and competitive impact of the expansion. We put in a bit more time than we did before the pandemic. But certainly not to the point.” This expansion is at the forefront. “
Moving is another option. Team owners can take advantage of either option as both fees are paid to the NBA. The move will enable the league to avoid dividing its largest source of income (media rights) among more owners, although clubs may incur moving fees and “flat-rate damages clause” fees if they attempt to evade arena leases before the contracts expire.
The chatter among sports bankers has brought Seattle, Las Vegas and Kansas City into the focus of the NBA.
The bigger question is whether these markets – or any market – can support a new team during an economic downturn.
“It’s an economic problem and it’s a competitive problem for us,” said Silver. “So, it’s one that we’re going to keep studying, but we’re spending a bit more time on it than before the pandemic.”
Kevin Durant # 7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball against the Washington Wizards during a preseason game on December 13, 2020 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Nathaniel S. Butler | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
NBA’s races in front of 2 billion viewers
Perhaps the most prominent piece by the NBA is their desire to continue their global expansion and do so with a younger audience. Silver mentioned that the league “includes nearly two billion people who are consuming the NBA in some way on social media on a global basis”.
With consumer habits changing, the NBA’s race for more than two billion would be formidable in a post-Covid world where a new generation of consumers don’t seem to be interested in sports.
Research firm Morning Consult finds that Generation Z (ages 13-23) consumers “are less likely than the general population to be identified as sports fans. Fifty-three percent of 1,000 Gen Zers surveyed considered themselves sports fans, compared with 63 percent of US Adults and 69 percent of millennials in a subsequent survey. “
The only US major league Gen Z consumer who was “over-indexed as fans compared to the general public” was the NBA.
This interest among younger consumers is the reason why project ratings from media experts will rise again. And once Nielsen changes its rating system to include digital / streaming metrics by 2024, league media rights fees will continue to follow only the National Football League.
“The only thing you know about the NFL is the most interesting thing on TV, followed by the NBA,” said Kevin Krim, founder and CEO of advertising data company EDO.
Silver is a 72-game season away from navigating the NBA through its toughest period. Again, some bumps are expected in the next few months, but the NBA seems positioned for a brighter future in a new decade and after Covid-19 reality.
That future starts on Tuesday.