Silver: NBA weathered pandemic financially

Commissioner Adam Silver says the NBA may come out of the pandemic on better footing than initially anticipated.



July 7, 2021 - 9:52 AM

Photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images / TNS

PHOENIX (AP) — The NBA may emerge from the pandemic on better financial footing than it first anticipated, though Commissioner Adam Silver warned Tuesday that it’s too early to declare things fully back to normal.

Silver, at his annual pre-NBA Finals news conference, said he believes the league weathered the pandemic and all that came with it — including much less revenue from the lack of fans in arenas for much of the last 15 months — relatively well, noting that even he was surprised to see many teams were able to have full buildings during the playoffs.

“Financially, for the season, without getting into it too specifically, we did somewhat better than we initially projected,” Silver said.

Silver had said that the lack of in-game revenue — ticket sales, concessions, food and drink and the like — may have meant the league would see a 40% dip in that cash stream. But, in part because some arenas had fans later in the regular season and then more than 1 million tickets being sold in playoff games, that dip could be closer to 33%.

“No question, the league will incur significant losses over the past two years,” Silver said. “I will say though, I’m not here to complain about that. Just speaking for our team owners, they view it as a long-term investment in the league and something very necessary to keep these organizations going. And by the way, it was shared sacrifice by our players as well.”

Players took “significant reductions” in salary this season, Silver said, something that was negotiated by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. That hit will be spread out over several seasons.

The league — which estimated its loss in revenue from last season at $1.5 billion — plans on returning to normal this fall, with the season starting in mid-October and likely being of the common 82-game duration. The number of games is still in some question because the play-in tournament isn’t officially back for next season, though it has long been expected that the league’s board of governors will keep it going forward.

“If things continue on track and we can move toward a new season next year that looks a lot more like normal, we’ll have weathered it very well,” Silver said.

Silver touched on many other issues, including:


Silver said the league is concerned about the number of injuries, something that has been blamed in some circles by the compressed 72-game season this season, plus the short layoff for some teams between last season and this one.

None of those reasons can be pointed to as an absolute cause, and the NBA doesn’t know why it’s happening, Silver said.

Over the coming months, it will try to find out.

“I have no doubt that the additional stress, again physical and emotional, on them contributes to injuries,” Silver said. “None of it is an exact science. It’s something that even pre-COVID, as you all know, we were very focused on at the league. We put people in place to focus exclusively on injury prevention. Precisely why we have the injuries we do is still unclear to us. It’s something that we’ll continue to study in the offseason. The trend line, unfortunately, has been going up for the last several years.”

The 82-game season isn’t set in stone going forward, either.