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Column: How the NBA In-Season Tournament Changed the NBA

It single-handedly saved this year’s NBA regular season and attracted many basketball fans

The NBA regular season has been the most disappointing thing in sports for the past five years. Besides opening night, the all-star break, and the playoffs/finals, the NBA has been nothing to the average fan. But on July 8, 2023, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced there would be a big change to the regular season: an NBA In-Season Tournament. The tournament will bring excitement to an otherwise dry portion of the season.

All 30 teams were drawn into groups of five based on last season’s standings. Each team will play four designated games from their group on “Tournament Nights.” Next, eight teams will advance to the knockout stage, the six best teams from each group and two wild cards who are second in their group with the best record per NBA. After seeding the eight teams, it turns into a single elimination tournament, just like the beloved March Madness college basketball tournament. The semi-finals and finals will take place in Las Vegas, where the final game will not count toward each team’s regular season record. The NBA motivates players by rewarding the winning team with a $500,000 bonus and a trophy, along with the selection of a tournament MVP award per The Washington Post

Many fans’ initial reaction was relief and excitement because they believed this would bring light into a dull stretch of the NBA season. These games would be available for everyone to watch and be much more enjoyable because of the decorated courts, special jerseys, involved crowds, and star players not sitting out of the games. Milwaukee Bucks star Damian Lillard has expressed his investment in the tournament stating, “I think as a leader and somebody who cares about your teammates, especially your younger teammates, you got guys on two-way contracts, guys who are trying to earn their stay and that prize in the end could change their family’s lives,” per Sports Illustrated.

Fast forward to now, we can say the tournament lived up to the hype. The first ever In-Season tournament champions are the Los Angeles Lakers after they defeated the Indiana Pacers, 123-109. LeBron James, a forward for the Lakers, received the first-ever In-Season Tournament MVP award. Adam Silver is getting his flowers for how successful this tournament ended up being. Packed stadiums, extremely high viewership, stars playing at a high level, and overall just better and more entertaining basketball games. Teams are playing some of their best basketball in December, something we have previously seen them save for June in the playoffs. The playoff-like environment and rewards can also help prepare teams for what they would encounter in the actual championship. After the Milwaukee Bucks fell short of the tournament championship, forward Bobby Portis erupted on his first-year head coach, Adrian Griffin, stressing how important it is to structure the offense down at the end of close games per Bleacher Report

This tournament brings so many new elements to the NBA regular season and has such a bright future to keep on changing the NBA. It has single-handedly saved this year’s NBA regular season and attracted many basketball fans who enjoy competitive basketball. 


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    Tyler J GilligMar 25, 2024 at 3:09 PM

    This is really insightful Charlie! I wasn’t a big supporter of the In-Season tournament but after watching I really liked it. Thanks for the additional info!