What was widely expected was made close to official on Friday (May 21) that the NBA is looking for the 2021-’22 season to return to a more normal starting point in mid-October and the finals concluding in late June. Some of this is widely believed to be because of what happened last year when TV ratings for the NBA playoffs plummeted sharply being outside of their normal seasons, as the NHL also suffered last year with their playoffs delayed to August and September. While some of that may have to do with the international calendar, especially concerning in normal years the Olympics or the FIBA World Championship’s (basketball’s equal to the World Cup) that between them in a four-year span have one or the other take place every other year, to me, it would be a big mistake for the NBA to go back to its “traditional” start point:
Literally DAYS before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in 2020 (it was on March 11, 2020 when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz testing positive that led to the rapid shutdown of ALL sports after that), management of the Atlanta Hawks proposed the NBA on a permanent basis start their season on Christmas Day, which for many is considered “the real opening day” for the NBA as it is as many before then are entrenched with the NFL, long-considered in the US to be the 800-pound gorilla of sports. Moving back the NBA season to start then would get more of it away from the NFL, but while FIBA could make adjustments to their basketball championships that take place every four years to accommodate that, the Olympics would be a roadblock to that unless for example:
The NBA and International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to have the IOC change its charter and move Basketball from the Summer to the Winter Olympics (with in such years the NBA season beginning on December 4 to accommodate a three-week Olympic break)
The IOC agreed to push back future Summer Olympic Games entirely to September/early October to accommodate the NBA Finals going to likely as late as the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
It likely would be unrealistic to expect the IOC to move the Summer Games back to accommodate the NBA because it would affect a lot of other events, plus, even having it in September/early October would knock some countries out from having the Summer Olympics due to logistical challenges that would have to be overcomed (i.e.: In many cases delaying the start of the school year to accommodate the Olympics) or weather becoming much cooler by the end of September. It also would put the Summer Olympics in the early portion of the NFL season, hurting Olympic TV ratings in the US if that happened. With that in mind, I propose as a compromise moving back the start of the NBA season on a permanent bases to the day after Thanksgiving, known in the US as “Black Friday” (named such because that is traditionally the day many department stores go into the black for the year in the US), a day many people get off in US (and if not directly, use a vacation/personal day for to make that a four-day weekend).
In a lot of ways, “Black Friday” would be a perfect launch point for the NBA. While it would be opposite some “rivalry games” in college football and a number of early-season tournaments in college basketball, “Black Friday” could be a perfect ways to showcase the NBA on a day many have off with wall-to-wall games airing simultaneously nationally as in this scenario, ALL 30 teams would play on opening day with EVERY game that day nationally televised between:
ABC: Quadrupleheader with games at 1:00, 3:30, 8:00 and 11:30 PM Eastern Time
ESPN: Quintupleheader with games at Noon, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30 and 10:00 PM Eastern Time
TNT: Sextupleheader with games at 11:00 AM (which would fulfill the part of the NBA’s contract with Turner Sports that they get the first game of the season to start), 1:30 PM, 4:00, 6:30, 9:00 and 11:30 PM Eastern Time.
The NBA could do a similar setup on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day (holidays many have off), with on those days, quintupleheaders on NBA TV (11:30 AM, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00 and 9:30 PM ET), ESPN (12:30, 3:00, 5:30, 8:00 and 10:30 PM ET with the 8:00 PM game possibly also airing on ABC) and TNT (1:00, 3:30, 6:00, 8:30 and 11:00 PM ET).
The All-Star game in this scenario would be where it probably should be permanently moved to anyway, the Sunday of the week before Selection Sunday for the NCAA Torunament and the all-Star break in that scenario possibly extending through selection Sunday, when many conference tournaments in college basketball are taking place and many people’s minds are on college basketball anyway. In that scenario, the NBA returns from the all-Star Break the day after selection Sunday with everybody playing that Monday.
The regular season with a Black Friday start would be designed to end on the Sunday before Memorial Day (except when Memorial Day falls on May 31, then the last day is Sunday, May 23 in those years), again with all 30 teams playing that day. The play-in tournament (if it is retained following this year) would be after that, done as it was this year with the 7-8 and 9-10 matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday and the second elimination games that Thursday and Friday, with the playoffs for everyone else starting the weekend after the regular season ends. It would be set up in non-Olympic years so the conference Finals would end the Sunday before Major League Baseball’s all-Star game at the latest and the Finals would start the Thursday after the MLB all-Star game (also the night following the ESPY awards), with the Finals in most years ending no later than the beginning of August, just as the NFL pre-season is starting. Obviously, in Olympic years, some adjustments might have to be made, but it might mean having the Summer games a week or two later than they normally are or the NBA moving up the playoffs a bit if needed to accommodate such.
That to me would work and allow the NBA to get more of its regular season away from the NFL.