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The Lancer Ledger

The Student News Site of Lakeland Regional High School

The Lancer Ledger

Opinion: NBA Inaugural In-Season Tournament Was a Success

“Court used for the Los Angeles Lakers In-Season Tournament 2023” by Troutfarm27 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The NBA kicked off its first ever In Season Tournament for the 2023-2024 season. The Lakers defeated the Pacers in the tournament final.

The NBA kicked off its inaugural In-Season Tournament (IST) for the 2023-2024 season. It saw each team play 4 pool play games against teams within their geographical conference (Western Conference teams were in the same pools as other Western Conference teams, and vice versa for the Eastern Conference). These pool play games were played along with regular season games, and each win and loss in a pool play game counted for the NBA regular season standings. The top four teams that had the greatest positive point differential in each conference made the In-Season Tournament Knockout Stage. It was a “win or go home” styled bracket, in which each round consisted of one game series, spanning from quarter-finals to semi-finals to the tournament final. The Los Angeles Lakers Won the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, December 9, 2023. Lebron James won the IST MVP for his efforts in helping the Lakers win the first ever NBA Cup.

A Deep Dive into the In-Season Tournament

Photo of Lebron James: A key player to the Lakers success in the In Season Tournament. (“Los Angeles Lakers @ Cleveland Cavaliers, March 21, 2022” by Erik Drost (CC BY 2.0))

While the NBA In-Season Tournament has drawn some doubts from fans, it overall brings excitement to an otherwise lackluster regular season.

Yes, the colorful courts are questionable and maybe even an eyesore. Yes, it is confusing to tell the difference between which games are In-Season Tournament pool play and which games are just a part of the regular season. However, the IST brings excitement to the beginning of the NBA regular season.

In the beginning of the NBA regular season, the most watched sport in the United States, football, is in the heart of its regular season. The NBA is often left with low television ratings, as they have to compete with both the NFL and college football. To the average fan, the first couple months of the NBA are seemingly meaningless. For many casual fans, the only time they watch an NBA game during football season is when someone puts it on in the background on Christmas day. However, now the NFL is even running games on Christmas, once again cutting into one of the most popular days in the NBA. Needing a way to improve ratings and compete with the NFL, NBA commissioner Adam Silver created the In-Season Tournament, which is based off of many various European soccer league’s regular season cups.

This was an excellent move by Silver. The NBA regular season is a very long 82 games. Superstars are sitting out more than ever, labeling it as “load management.” The IST prevents star players from sitting out of early season games, as the added importance of the IST motivates many star players to be at their best without any absence.

In addition to load management, playoff outcomes feel increasingly detached from regular season results, as an 8-seed made the Finals last season. Now with the In-Season tournament, fans and players alike are treated with a playoff atmosphere early in the regular season. Just watching it on the TV, the atmosphere given by the fans in Las Vegas for the final, where the tournament semi-final and final was held, was similar to the atmosphere of a first round playoff game.

The players took the tournament very seriously, and every player on the Lakers was awarded $500,000 for winning the tournament. The players on the Pacers also won $250,000 for being runners up. This added incentive led to players gaining more motivation to winning the tournament, as to some players on smaller contracts, $500,000 can go a long way. Of the 438 players with 2023-24 salaries listed on Spotrac, 283 of them will earn less than $10 million, meaning that an NBA Cup win would result in at least a 5% bonus for the majority of the league’s players.

Tyrese Haliburton was a budding young star in the IST, helping lead the Pacers to the tournament final. (“Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards, March 6, 2022” by All-Pro Reels (CC BY-SA 2.0))

This seriousness of the players led to breakout performances from players like the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton, who brought a Pacers team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year, all the way to the IST finals with his incredible efforts. While Haliburton had a great year last year, he showed in the IST that he has what it takes to bring the Pacers to the next level.

Fans were also treated to playoff Lebron James in December, as at age 38 Lebron once again defied all odds and brought the Lakers the first ever NBA cup, winning the IST MVP in the process. This win adds another element to the king’s legacy, as the number of accolades continues to grow in year 21. Lebron continues to build his arguably “greatest of all time” resume.

The fact of the matter is, the NBA also needs money. With low ratings in the early part of the year, the NBA saw the IST to make ends meet. With over 4.58 million people who tuned in to watch the IST final, it’s safe to say that the idea was hugely successful and profitable for the NBA.

IST – A New NBA Staple

The In-Season Tournament was a huge success. It ridded the NBA of many of its core problems, being load management and a seemingly meaningless beginning of the regular season, and brought a playoff like atmosphere to the early regular season. Viewers were treated to special performances from budding young stars like the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton and the Lakers’ Austin Reeves, as well as vintage Lebron James and Anthony Davis.

The IST should be a staple to the NBA for years to come, and hopefully continue to be as exciting as it was in its inaugural season.

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About the Contributor
Sean Walker
Sean Walker, Staff Writer
Sean is a senior at LRHS and this is his first year writing for the Lancer Ledger. He is excited to be taking Journalism 1 because it will allow him to write about things he's passionate about, such as sports, history, and entertainment. At LRHS, Walker participates in wrestling, football, and track and field, and is a member of the National Honors Society. Overall, Walker looks forward to strengthening his writing through the field of journalism this year.

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