When somebody proposed an NBA midseason tournament at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference earlier this year, I wasn’t a fan of it.
Now that commissioner Adam Silver has floated the same idea, I have to admit: Still not a fan.
Anyway, a lot of people who can’t help but tinker apparently are interested in establishing an in-season tournament similar to European soccer’s FA Cup. Silver brought up the concept Tuesday at a press conference in Las Vegas as a way to give a team other than the eventual NBA champion a chance to win something every season.
On some level, it’s easy to see why this idea appeals to NBA brass. It would conceivably drum up fan interest in the doldrums of the regular season and would serve as a testing ground to determine the real title contenders later on. Basketball, like soccer, is a global game, so presumably what works for one should work for the other.
Except, not quite.
The preponderance of championships and cups and tournaments in international soccer is part of what hinders its acceptance in the U.S. A lot of fans just don’t have the time or energy to keep up with more than one “champion” per year. There is a point of diminishing returns, when too much of a good thing reaches a tipping point. Just look at Major League Baseball, which has seen interest in its midseason All-Star game decline now that fans can watch every game live on their iPads.
Interest in the NBA has been steadily growing for the past 30-plus years, and the league is soon to sign a new TV agreement that could be worth double what it is now. Maybe a midseason tournament is just the innovation the league needs to capitalize on its growth and new riches. Or maybe it will just be too much of a good thing.