When the NBA season begins in late October, teams go through training camps, which give coaches a chance to evaluate players, scout their strengths and weaknesses, and get ready for the rigorous regular season schedule. During the preseason, teams can play games both at home and abroad. They also have a number of exhibition matches and can send non-starters to the NBA G League, which is a second-tier development league that allows players to gain professional experience. Once the regular season starts, teams can have a maximum of 12 active players and three players on the inactive list.
When a player is injured, the team can place him on the inactive list for up to 14 days, meaning that the rest of the roster can practice and play without him. The player can only return to the active list once he has been medically cleared. After a month of games, the playoffs start. The top eight teams in each conference advance to the championship, which is decided by a best-of-seven series.
The NBA was created in 1949 when the National Basketball Association and the American Basketball League merged. Initially, there were 17 teams but after six years the league started losing teams due to financial struggles. In 1953, the league began experimenting with changes such as a 24-second shot clock and the three point basket to increase the scoring of games and make the game more attractive to fans.
Over the course of seven decades, the NBA has grown to thirty teams throughout the United States and one in Canada. The league has produced some of the most famous athletes in sports history including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. The NBA has also become a massive business. Media rights alone bring in $2 billion per year and the NBA has a number of corporate deals.
In an era where star players are able to negotiate hundreds of millions of dollars and choose where they want to play after their rookie contracts expire, it is perhaps unsurprising that the N.B.A. has evolved in a way that is more progressive with respect to race. As Runstedtler points out, the N.B.A. has a much more tame press corps than it did in the seventies and eighties, so it can avoid criticism or even questioning about race from reporters that it deems a threat to its bottom line.
Adding to the intrigue around the new in-season tournament is the fact that all of its games will count toward a team’s regular season record. That, combined with a single-elimination format for the final four teams left, should incentivize teams to compete. But it will take time to see whether the in-season tournament becomes a permanent part of the NBA calendar. If it does, the league is set to buck the trend of the Covid-19 pandemic by taking advantage of its newfound clout. This could be a major turning point for the NBA.