The Secret Winner: How the NBA wins economically through manipulation

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Entertainment. It’s what major sport leagues such as the National Basketball Association provide to all their viewers. As a fan of basketball, I follow the games pretty much every day. My phone buzzes for every NBA application there is. With all my phone space used on basketball apps, I started looking at the new NBA schedule for the past couple of years to figure out whether the new teams are going to compete for a championship. Going through the entire schedule was fun for me, and I thought that I had learned a lot about the NBA.

But this summer was something different. There was a notification every day about players being traded and the teams drafting new players that were supposed to be “the future of the NBA.” However, the NBA’s season schedule, released on August 14, 2017, was the most interesting part of the offseason. 

In the offseason, former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving decided to ask for a trade from the Cavaliers to another team. ESPN’s reporter Stephen A. Smith believed that Irving “didn’t want to play second fiddle to LeBron James.” But Irving told ESPN that “he wanted to perfect his craft,” and that is why he saw a better opportunity elsewhere. He was finally traded to Boston on August 23, 2017.

The most intriguing part about this entire trade to me was the timing. How had Irving been traded seven days after the NBA schedule was finalized? Coincidentally, Irving played his first game of the season against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. How did the NBA know that Kyrie would be traded to Boston before the trade had ever been approved?

All these questions eventually became more intriguing as the Carmelo Anthony trade took place. Anthony, a former forward for the New York Knicks, got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder a month later. This trade marked the end of a rocky career for the all-star forward in New York and marked a new beginning for Anthony with all-star players Russell Westbrook and Paul George.  On top of that, Anthony’s first game of the season was against his former team, the Knicks. It’s fishy how the NBA figured out where Anthony was going to be before he got traded.

These coincidences, however, are the NBA’s way of attracting more audiences. As I started realizing all the new questions that this year’s schedule brought up, I began believing in the fact that the NBA was rigged. It was all set up for the objective to entertain the audience.

The NBA, in fact, has been notorious about favoring big market teams in order to get more money and generate revenue. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings Western Conference Finals series in 2001 was considered to be one of the most lopsided series for the Lakers to take place in a long time. In that series, it seemed to me like the referees sold the game away to the Lakers, which helped them get to the finals. Don’t get me wrong here, I wanted the Lakers to win, but the fact that the Kings played a more dominant series and still had to lose was unfair.

The Kings got robbed a championship because the NBA cared about the amount of revenue it was going to generate from the popular team, the Lakers, being in the finals. The NBA has constantly wanted teams that would generate more money for the league to play in the finals. As an athlete, losing a game hurts, but losing a game while playing better than the opposition is just infuriating.

Watching the NBA for the last couple of years has been fun and I’ve truly enjoyed the sport. However, watching the NBA make questionable decisions that decide the fate of a franchise or a city is heartbreaking. My main wish is for the NBA to be fair so people  can enjoy watching their team play and win based on their merit, not commercial value. Having a balance between the talent level in NBA teams based on the merit is what everyone wants, but the main issue in the NBA is how quickly a situation changes for a team and how the NBA is involved in making that happen.

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About Author

Aditya Dash is a first year staff member on El Estoque. He enjoys playing basketball and learning more about neuroscience.