NBA mulls in-season tournament with $1M-per-player prize: Reports

NBA seeks to jumpstart fan interest amid sagging TV ratings

The NBA is mulling the creation of a 30-team, in-season tournament that would feature a $1 million prize for each player on the winning team, among several other changes to its schedule starting with the 2021-22 season, according to multiple reports on Friday.

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The league-backed proposal calls for the in-season event that would begin with a group stage, as part of the regular-season schedule, and end with an eight-team bracket, ESPN reported, citing league sources. Executives are said to view the proposed $1 million prize as a way to motivate individual players to compete in the event.

Other proposed changes include the implementation of play-in games for the seventh and eighth conference playoff seeds, as well as playoff re-seeding for the conference finals based on regular-season record. The plan would reduce the NBA’s regular-season schedule to 78 or 79 games, down from the current 82-game slate.

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The NBA has sought to jumpstart fan interest during the regular season in recent years. The NBA’s television ratings were down 22 percent for TNT broadcasts and 19 percent on ESPN broadcasts as of Dec. 5.

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Pundits have attributed the decline to various factors, including the cord-cutting trend, the NBA’s deals with cable television networks, the practice of “load management” to rest players and injuries to top stars like Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson this season.

NBA team executives are said to be skeptical of the plan’s ability to create new revenue and attract interest from star players. A shorter regular-season or loss of home games would cost teams millions of dollars in potential revenue.

The proposal would require approval from at least 20 of the league’s 30 franchises, as well as the National Basketball Players Association. The vote would have to pass by the league’s board of governors meeting in April in order to be put into place for the 2021-22 season.

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