Logan Gooley ‘24,
Photo Courtesy of Bleacher Report
As many basketball fans know by now, this season the NBA decided to add a play-in tournament, in which seeds 7-10 will compete for the last two playoff spots in the East and West. If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, let me explain. For each conference, the 7th seed will host the 8th seed in a one-game series. The winner of the seven vs. eight matchup will become the seventh seed, and the loser will play the winner of a one-game series between the 9th and 10th seeds. The winner of that game will become the eighth seed, and then the normal playoff format will begin. While the sports world is accustomed to Wild Card games in the NFL, MLB, and NCAA, the idea of a play-in tournament is unique to all sports and it will be exciting to see such a change from a traditional seven-game series in the NBA.
While fans are excited about the new play-in tournament, the players seem otherwise. Recently, Los Angeles Lakers professional crybaby LeBron James stated that “Whoever came up with that [expletive] needs to be fired.” LeBron joins both Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and owner Mark Cuban in vocalizing their discontent with the play-in tournament. All three have voiced that they do not believe that a team that has earned the 7th or 8th seed should have the ability to lose their spot in the playoffs because they play two bad games. They believe with the NBA shortening the season to 72 games, the play-in tournament adds another layer of stress for teams to push late in the season, leading to injuries and subsequently worse playoff basketball.
Funny enough, though, the play-in tournament was passed unanimously by the NBA, in which owner Mark Cuban had a vote. I also do not recall LeBron James or Luka Doncic complaining or raising issues with the play-in tournament when it was passed. The reason: they didn’t think they’d have to play in the tournament themselves. The Lakers were projected to be the top seed in the West, but after LeBron and Anthony Davis got injured, the Lakers have fallen to the 6th seed. The Mavericks were expected to be a top-four team in the West this year as well, but after the Jazz and Suns’ unexpected play boosted them to the top two seeds, it’s hard to imagine that the Mavericks will attain that goal. This leaves both teams staring at the 7th seed, and this is why these comments are coming out now.
The play-in tournament is going to generate extra revenue for a league that lost $1.5 billion last year due to COVID-19. Additionally, fans are ecstatic to see the play-in tournament because lower-seeded teams will finally have a chance to win in the postseason. The reason why the NFL has such an exciting playoff format is that it’s based on one game. Any team can beat any team on any given day, but over a seven-game series, it’s hard to pull off an upset. That means players like LeBron and Luka will have to play competitively in the first round, which is what fans want. Recently, the NBA has become a soft league in which everyone is friends and winning means less than salary. The play-in tournament is an attempt to bring back player’s competitiveness by making them fight for spots in the playoffs. So to LeBron, Luka, and Mark, just play harder for at least that 6th seed, and you won’t have to play in the play-in tournament.