What would the NBA be like with a Champions League-style in-season knockout cup tournament?
Earlier this year, there were rumblings around basketball circles in North America regarding a cup tournament taking place during the NBA season. The idea was put forward as a way to make the NBA and its games far more competitive during the regular season.
The NBA’s regular season is an 82-game marathon ordeal with teams jockeying for playoff places. The top eight teams in each conference (16 overall) make the playoffs. Therefore, like many North American sports, the excitement is on hold until the postseason.
But what if the NBA started an in-season cup tournament or formed a Champions League-style competition with some of the best league champions from around the globe? Would it make the basketball season more exciting?
An NBA in-season cup tournament
While an NBA in-season cup tournament sounds great, the biggest hang-up is a lack of teams. The closed league model that the NBA has in which there is no promotion or relegation means the same 30 teams compete in the Association each year.
A cup tournament would just see the league’s teams play one another in additional games for a trophy. Would the Association’s teams take it seriously? It is doubtful.
To make the tournament more competitive, the NBA would need to add more teams from outside its restricted borders. The only real place to find these competitive squads would be in the NBA’s G League, which is the development league for the Association, or Canada’s NBL.
Theoretically, a tournament could be played against teams from South America as both Brazil and Argentina take their basketball seriously. However, the financial aspect and travel each team would need to endure would make the tournament almost impossible.
Similarly, a tournament in which teams from Europe compete against the NBA’s best teams would also be unfeasible.
Perhaps the only way a cup competition could be held is during the NBA’s summer offseason. However, many of the NBA’s stars would be against the idea of playing addition games after finishing a seven-month regular season plus two-month playoff competition.
Is the NBA boring?
The NBA does have the best teams and players in the world, but it can be argued that the games are far from exciting. Yes, you can watch the best of the best, but the fact that teams play 82 games and then face a playoff tournament to crown the league champion makes it boring.
Many of the games played during the regular season can have little meaning and pressure to win these games is non-existent. There have been NBA players in the past claim they have left European basketball for leagues outside of the continent due to the pressure and expectations being too high.
European basketball and its multiple competitions can make the season-long and draining due to intense nightly pressure. This is more akin to American college basketball in which it is a sprint to get to qualify for a Champions League-style single-elimination knockout tournament.
While a Champions League-style tournament would be interesting, the logistics of teams and players competing would be a challenge. For now, there may be other ways to draw more fan interest in the Association’s regular-season than just adding a knockout cup tournament.