The NBA Playoffs Must Be More Equitable and Inclusive


The National Basketball Association playoffs are an annual elimination tournament to determine the league champion. The best-of-seven series is held in late May and June and is broadcast by ABC, ESPN and NBA TV (try fubo for free). Each member of the winning team receives a Larry O’Brien Championship ring. The top seeds in each conference are guaranteed a first-round bye, while the worst teams face each other. This year, the playoff field started with 20 teams after the Warriors, Kings and Hawks were eliminated in the Play-In Tournament. The Pelicans, Suns, Clippers, Lakers and 76ers made the biggest comebacks in franchise history to advance past the first round.

The nba has changed since the seventies, when it struggled to attract fans as other sports were experiencing financial turmoil and soaring player salaries. Today, star players earn hundreds of millions of dollars, and they can largely choose where they want to play. The league’s union is more progressive than ever and the press that covers it is far more willing to consider player perspectives. But the ugliest caricatures of Black players still emerge—sometimes when a player’s protest of police brutality is taken out of context or when the N.B.A. struggles and management needs someone to blame.

There is also a new sense of urgency that has emerged in the nba, which is why it’s so important to understand how this sport was built on racial tensions. In a racially divided society, basketball can act as a unifying force for the community—but it can only do so if the people who run it understand that.

Despite the progress that has been made, the nba’s leadership must continue to make sweeping changes to its rules and policies to be truly equitable and inclusive. Until then, the league should be viewed with skepticism by anyone who believes it’s a progressive bastion for minorities.

The nba must do more to prevent flopping, which is endemic in the game and can undermine the integrity of refereeing. The league should increase the number of flopping techs and start imposing multi-game suspensions on the most egregious floppers. It should also require teams to submit video evidence when disputing a call, and make the league office review those videos before deciding on any further action. A more proactive approach will help to create a level playing field and give all fans a chance to see the true talent of their favorite teams. The nba deserves that much.