The 2015-16 NBA season tips off tonight with three intriguing matchups, while off the court the league faces a bevy of compelling business issues that will impact the game this year and beyond. Here’s a brief look at four important issues The Fields of Green will monitor and analyze throughout the season:
Ongoing CBA Discussions
While National Basketball Player Association (NBPA) executive director Michele Roberts initially took a combative stance on the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) shortly after assuming the post in 2014, recent comments and actions have suggested a more amicable tone. With the NBPA able to opt out of the current CBA in 2017, the more dialogue commissioner Adam Silver and Roberts have, the better the chance the league can avoid a potentially damaging labor stoppage.
Before the recent firestorm surrounding daily fantasy sites began, Silver set the sports world on fire when he spoke about what some would call an enlightened approach to gambling and sports. Following the scandal, he again took the lead on the issue by calling for regulation of the DFS industry. While DFS may or may not survive the increased scrutiny, gambling on sports isn’t going away. There are legal hurdles to clear and powerful lobbies to satisfy, but we may be closer to taking an adult look at gambling and sports instead of the leagues pretending it doesn’t exist. With Silver leading the way, the NBA has an opportunity to shape the discussion.
Internationalization and the Olympics
Of the major sports leagues, the NBA has done the best job of capitalizing on opportunities to grow the game abroad. A primary driver of this global popularity has been league players participating in the Summer Olympic Games. NBA stars will represent their country next summer in Rio de Janeiro, and the world will be riveted. This preseason the NBA held its first ever contest in Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa) as part of what’s become an annual preseason tradition of international games. The regular season will see games played in Mexico City and London. These opportunities, as well as the Summer Olympics, continue to strengthen the brand of not only the NBA, but its players as well.
Increased use of data and analytics
Taking the lead from nerds taking over baseball, advanced analytics have infiltrated every level of professional basketball. Whether it’s using data to sell tickets with dynamic pricing, tracking and cataloguing player and ball movement with video cameras, or using body monitoring devices to track performance, the data revolution has come to the hardwood. Undoubtedly aided by information gleaned from monitoring player performance, the league has already made an effort to limit the number of back-to-back and four-games-in-five-days occurrences. That’s a win for players, but as data collection becomes increasingly intrusive, will players start pushing back?
Four more issues: The new media rights deals set to begin for the 2016-17 season; Nike becoming the league’s apparel manufacturer starting with the 2017-18 season; potential sponsor name placement on NBA jerseys; and new venues in Sacramento and Milwaukee.