The NBA just finished an unprecedented season and is ready to embark on another one. The coronavirus (COVID-19) put the NBA on a four-month hold last season before resuming in a Florida ‘bubble’ without fans. The 2020-21 season is tipping off in less than two weeks and COVID-19 is still heavily affecting plans. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, expects to lose a jaw-dropping amount of money this season because of the virus.
The NBA adjusted well to COVID-19
Back on March 11, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19. The Jazz game against the Oklahoma City Thunder scheduled for that night was postponed, sending fans home wondering what was happening. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver then announced the league was being put on hold.
The NBA returned to action in late July with a whole new look. On May 25, George Floyd died during an arrest after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an incident that drew nationwide attention. NBA players took action, demanding social justice and racial equality. NBA players were permitted to wear league-approved messages on the back of their jerseys. The NBA courts had ‘Black Lives Matter’ written down the sideline.
When the second half of the league began, the league set up their ‘bubble’ in Orlando, Florida. The league played its games in front of virtual fans. The bubble worked as no games were affected by COVID-19. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to claim the NBA title.
Mark Cuban, NBA facing new challenges
If the 2019-20 season seems like it just ended, it’s because it just did. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Oct. 11, 2020, closing the door on the season. In the league’s quickest turnaround, the NBA is opening its 2020-21 season Dec. 23.
This season, the NBA is expected to begin the year without fans. With a huge revenue hit from the loss of ticket sales, the NBA opted for a quick start to the season in order to gain TV revenue from Christmas games. Had they not begun before Christmas, it was estimated the league would be out on at least $500 million.
The league will have to deal with travel with no bubble in place this year. NFL teams have been widely affected by positive COVID-19 cases this year, but that generally results in a player missing one game, if any. With the structure of the NBA schedule, it’s likely a player will be out four games or so. The bubble was successful, but there’s just no way it’s feasible for it to take place for a full season.
Mark Cuban expects to take a significant financial hit
With no fans, or very little, in arenas at the beginning of the NBA season, teams are expected to take a big financial hit. According to CNBC, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the hit will likely be over $100 million. He said he hopes by the end of the season, however, the Mavs will be selling out the place again post-vaccine.
“Am I going to lose a lot of money this year? Yes. No question about it. More than $100 million when this is all said and done? Yes. No question about it,” Cuban said Monday.
“Hopefully, post-vaccine, life will be back to normal and everything will be OK,” Cuban said. “Fans will be in arenas, and it wouldn’t shock me if … we reach a point in time where there’s enough people with vaccines and everybody’s confident, maybe it’s March, maybe it’s April, maybe even May since we started [the season] late, and we’re just selling out the place.”