Until this year, the NBA Finals hadn’t been played in an Oakland, California, arena since 1975. As for Altanta, Denver, Toronto, New Orleans, and Sacramento? They’ve never been played in these cities.
Under the current format, the NBA Finals are held each year in the participating team’s cities. Outside of the NFL, most professional leagues conduct their championship series this way.
But college championships and the NFL provide another option for the NBA (and all pro leagues) to consider. Like their pigskin brethren, is it time the NBA Finals were held on neutral sites?
Finding spectators willing to pay top dollar hasn’t been a problem for the NFL or NCAA. Only once in the past 30 years has attendance dipped below 65,000 for the Super Bowl. The NCAA hasn’t had trouble filling seats, either. Attendance at the last two national championship games included a record-breaking crowd in Dallas in 2014, and over 72,000 fans in Indianapolis for the 2015 edition.
One simple reason the NBA Finals don’t appear to be headed to neutral sites in the immediate future revolves around money. The television rights belong to ABC, and in 2014, the company raked in $224 million off advertising during the NBA Finals. A change in venue could affect advertising revenue or deliver less viewers on the screen, reducing ABC’s chances of increasing their rates on the $517,000 per 30-second commercial.
In other words, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it? That’s sure to be the million (or billion) dollar question on owners’ minds before considering a change of significant magnitude.
At the very least, current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is open to change. Recently, he announced the playoff seeding system would be revised, seeding teams from 1 to 8 without restrictions to benefit divisional champions as early as 2016.
If you’re looking for parity in the NBA, look elsewhere. The NBA has had a handful of teams dominate the league over the past seven decades. Having conducted 69 total NBA Finals series, that created 138 total slots for NBA teams to make the championship series. And no, David Stern wasn’t the commissioner for all 69 seasons. It just feels that way.
Thirty-one times, the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers have participated in the NBA Finals, taking up one possible slot. When you add the Lakers’ success of reaching the NBA Finals with all appearances by the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and the Syracuse/Philadelphia 76ers, you’ve taken away exact half of the available slots. That’s not counting repeat runs by the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, or Miami Heat.
The debate as to where the NBA Finals should be held has been around a long time, and it can even be traced back as far as 1990. Fans, celebs, and sportswriters alike have voiced their opinion, and it seems they wouldn’t mind seeing neutral sites for the NBA Finals.
Why shouldn't the NBA Finals be played at a neutral site? http://t.co/5wZkVpgs7Q
— NBA Topics (@NBA_topics_us) July 25, 2015
#NBAFinals need to be on a neutral site like the super bowl
— Donovan McDabb (@Dondre1017) June 12, 2015
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[Image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]