Hawks CEO wants the NBA season to start in December, not October

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Ryan Young
·3 min read
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There have been several ideas thrown around regarding changes to the NBA’s schedule in recent months, including the creation of a midseason tournament, a shortened season and more.

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin revealed his idea to tweak the league’s schedule on Friday while speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, and it’s a relatively simple one.

Koonin wants to push the season back two months.

“Relevance equals revenue,” Koonin said, via ESPN. “We’ve got to create the most relevance, and the revenue will fix itself.”

A mid-December start

Currently, the NBA kicks off its season in mid-October and wraps up with the Finals in June.

If Koonin had his way, the league would instead start two months later in mid-December and hold the Finals at some point in August. That, he said, would eliminate competition with most other professional sports leagues.

The league now has to compete with the NFL for the first few months of the season, whereas a December start wouldn’t overlap much at all with the NFL or college football, which would be at the start of its bowl season. The proposal would allow it to take over more of the summer — where Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour dominate the sports world in the United States, for the most part — and wrap up just before football starts again in the fall.

“A big piece is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enhance ratings,” Koonin said, via ESPN. “Sometimes, moving away from competition is a great way to grow ratings.

“If King Kong is at your door, you might go out the back door, rather than go out the front and engage in a hand-to-hand fight with King Kong. Many times, at the start of the NBA season, we are competing with arguably the best Thursday Night Football game with the NBA on TNT, our marquee broadcast, and we get crushed and we wonder why.

“It’s because at the beginning of the season, there’s very little relevance for the NBA. The relevance is now. That’s when people are talking about it.”

NBA is open to the idea

The NBA, while considering a number of possible changes to the schedule, didn’t shut down Koonin’s idea.

“We certainly have no issue with reconsidering the calendar,” NBA senior vice president Evan Wasch said, via ESPN. “To Steve’s point, you have to think about the other stakeholders. They need to get more comfortable with the Finals in August, rather than June, where traditionally the household viewership is a lot lower. But the flip side of that argument is there hasn’t been a lot of premium content in that window, which explains why viewership is lower.

“We’re open to that ... there’s no magic to [the season going from] October to June.”

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