For many casual fans, the NBA doesn’t really start until Christmas, when the league takes over the sports world for one of their marquee days. But what if the actual opening night was in December? That’s what Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin proposed in a presentation at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday. And as it turns out, the league is open to the idea.
Under Koonin’s idea, the league would push the start of the season from mid-October to mid-December, in order to avoid much of the football season. The Finals, then, would take place sometime in August, with the NBA Draft, free agency and Summer League shifting back in the calendar as well.
“A big piece is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enhance ratings,” Koonin said. “Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings.”
That’s obviously quite a radical proposal, and would need to not only be further fleshed out, but accepted by everyone from the players to broadcast partners. Even so, we shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. According to Evan Wasch, the NBA‘s senior VP of strategy and analytics, the league is open to the idea. Via ESPN:
“We certainly have no issue with reconsidering the calendar. To Steve’s point, you have to think about the other stakeholders. They need to get more comfortable with the Finals in August, rather than June, where traditionally the household viewership is a lot lower. But the flip side of that argument is there hasn’t been a lot of premium content in that window, which explains why viewership is lower. We’re open to that … there’s no magic to [the season going from] October to June.”
“None of the ideas we are talking about now are new ideas. The question is not, are we just reacting to what’s happening with ratings or what’s happening with injuries or player loads or things like that. It is a question of, ‘Can you make a better product?'”
There’s a whole lot to consider here, and the league isn’t going to be altering the schedule so extensively any time soon — something this big needs a whole lot more discussion and consideration from so many different groups.
But as Adam Silver and Co. have shown with their other recent proposals — reducing games, an in-season tournament, re-seeding in the playoffs — this current leadership group is open to bold ideas. Even if it isn’t this exact proposal, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the league move the schedule around in some way over the next decade or so.