LeBron James is going to love the NBA’s decision on play-in tournament
LeBron James may not like it, but the NBA play-in tournament is here to stay.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: “The NBA and the Players Association have agreed to extend the play-in tournament format through the 2021-2022 season…The league’s Board of Governors will make it official in a formal vote soon.”
The news comes as no surprise, as commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly expressed his approval of the tournament. In May, Silver said this on ESPN Radio:
“I haven’t made any secret that I want it to be [around long term]. I have two constituencies I need to convince of that. One is the 30 teams, and I think for the most part they’ve supported it. Again, I understand the sentiment if I were a team — a 7-seed in particular — the notion [that] after a long season, you could potentially play out of the playoffs. I understand those feelings. I think at the same time, the teams recognize the amount of additional interest we’ve created over the last month of the season plus those play-in games make it worth it.”
At his pre-Finals press conference on July 6, Silver reiterated his belief in the play-in tournament:
“Overall it was very positive for the league and players,” the commissioner said.
Silver has a point. Not only did the bout between Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers produce a down-to-the-wire thriller, but the game achieved ESPN’s highest ratings for an NBA telecast since 2019.
🏀 ESPN's exclusive telecast of last night's #Lakers v #Warriors NBA Play-In game drew an average audience of 5,618,000 viewers, peaking w/ 6,149,000 viewers from 12:30-1am ET. It was the most-watched NBA game on ESPN since the 2019 Western Finals & up 190% v 2020 Play-In on ABC. pic.twitter.com/ESjH2MOKXi
— Ben Cafardo (@Ben_ESPN) May 20, 2021
LeBron’s Lakers teammate, Jared Dudley tweeted his support of the (pending) decision:
Ratings was way to high to get rid of… Kept 10-12 extra fan bases involved last couple months of the season… Will help with the TV money when contract eventually runs out.. https://t.co/gzIp6ncuwp
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) July 16, 2021
In general, Silver has been a long-time backer of incentivized midseason competitions, a la international football.
In May, James, who was the hero of the play-in game with his “three-rims” dagger over Curry to clinch the No. 7 seed — which arguably backfired, as they had to face the Phoenix Suns — became the poster-child for play-in criticism once his Lakers were facing the possibility of participating, due to this unforgettable venting of frustration:
LeBron on the play-in tournament: “Whoever came up with that shit need to be fired”
— michael corvo (@_michaelcorvo_) May 3, 2021
In March of 2020, LeBron advocated for a play-in competition on the “Road Trippin” podcast — likely not expecting his team to be a part of it anytime soon.
In his post-game remarks following the Lakers win over the Warriors, James chose to refrain from offering any more input on the play-in tournament:
“When I asked about it, I told you how I felt,” LeBron said. “I showed up, we showed up, and we was ready to play.”