Nate Grubb is a freshman journalism major and writes for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo attempting to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to back-to-back NBA titles.
The Los Angeles Lakers retooling, giving LeBron James and Anthony Davis some help by trading for superstar Russell Westbrook.
The Phoenix Suns winning 20 of their last 22 games.
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant taking over the league.
The return of Klay Thompson to the Golden State Warriors lineup.
The blockbuster trade, sending Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets and James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers.
These all sound like top headlines for an amazing and interesting season. Yet, the 2021-22 NBA season has felt like anything but that. Why is that?
The first thing that popped into my mind was viewer fatigue. Since COVID-19 wrecked the sports world, the NBA calendar has been messed up. The 2019-20 season concluded in the ‘Disney Bubble’ on Oct.11, 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Miami Heat 106-93. 72 days later, on Dec. 22, 2020, the 2020-21 season kicked off with two games. That 72 day offseason is the shortest offseason in NBA history. It seems now that the league is finding some normality, moving back to their mid-October-to-mid-April schedule. But, the league has seemingly played 3 seasons worth of basketball in two-and-a-half seasons time.
With arenas allowing fans to return to the stands to watch their favorite teams, one would assume that an uptick in attendance would occur. That, sadly, is not to be. Alex Silverman of Morning Consult wrote that the league is seeing a 4.9 percent decrease in fans from the pre-COVID 2019-20 season and this year. Teams near the top of attendance like the Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat haven’t seen much change. Teams who were near the middle of the pack pre-COVID, teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder (14th), Indiana Pacers (22nd), and Sacramento Kings (20th) have fallen by the thousands, dropping to bottom three of attendance.
This season has also seen many players out with injuries or out due to COVID protocols. Star players like Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers and Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans haven’t played a game this year due to nagging injuries. Ben Simmons has sat out the year after contract disputes with the Philadelphia 76ers. His new Brooklyn Net teammate Kyrie Irving has missed most of the games this season thanks to controversy surrounding his stance on the COVID vaccine. Superstars like Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, L.A. Lakers’ Anthony Davis and LeBron James, Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Philadelphia’s James Harden, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo have all missed significant time thanks to injuries or COVID protocols.
Without many of these star players, interest in high ticket matchups lose their appeal as teams scramble to sign journeymen, busts, former players and G-League players to 10-day contracts to complete their rosters. In fact, after Minnesota Timberwolves center Greg Monroe checked in on Dec. 27, 2021 against the Boston Celtics, he became the 541st player to appear in a game this season, breaking the record for most players to play a game in an NBA season. Keep in mind, the NBA regular season lasts until April 10, 2022.
Maybe with the NFL season finally wrapped up and the MLB lockout continuing on, perhaps viewership of the NBA sees an uptick. Until that happens, we’re left to wonder what the future of this NBA season has in store. Can they make it more exciting, or will the viewer fatigue, lack of attendance, and constant roster overhauls become the new norm of basketball?