One of the most common things people say as they see their favorite player brick a buzzer-beating shot or not get a foul call in a finals game is that the NBA is rigged. This could be said about the Draymond Green suspension before Game 5, which was critical for the Cavaliers to come up with a series-saving win. This isn’t the first time the integrity of the NBA has come into question, but it is worth taking look at.
Let’s take a look at the 2007 NBA Finals. The underdog Cavaliers clawed and scratched their way on LeBron James’ back to get to the Finals, only to be swept away like unruly puppies by the San Antonio Spurs, 4-0. The series was on ABC, branded with ESPN and ABC, and produced relatively low television ratings. How is this so? Basketball fans love to watch LeBron play, and an underdog story plays on the heartstrings. Surely a Game 6 or 7 featuring the young, spry LeBron with something to prove going against the fundamentally amazing Spurs team would have sports fans around the world glued to their TVs or computers. If this was so, why would a business forego a couple hundred million dollars in revenue to allow an anti-climactic sweep of this sort?
Worst NBA Finals in the 2000’s?
2002 Nets get stomped by Lakers 4-0?
2007 Cavs get stomped by Spurs 4-0?
— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) June 9, 2015
According to Marketplace, ABC made more than $158 million during the 2015 playoff series between Golden State and the Cavaliers. BallNRoll reported that an average of $930 million is paid to the NBA by TNT and ESPN for their basketball -elated programs and games. Kantar Media reported that the total 2013 NBA postseason advertising totalled about $536.9 million – and keep in mind that’s only for the postseason.
As far as ticket sales go, remember the Spurs and Heat Finals in 2014? The average ticket price was $865. Multiply that by around 17,500 seats and that’s about $15 million a game.
It would not be astronomically wrong to estimate that a Game 6 or Game 7 such as the one we have Thursday night or Sunday night respectively would bring in close to $100 million in revenue.
A fan just paid $75,000 on StubHub for 3 courtside seats to Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Oakland. If there isn’t a Game 7, money comes back.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 15, 2016
THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU JUST CAN’T RIG
The 2013 NBA Finals saw the greatest shot in NBA history. The score is 95-92 to the Spurs – who held a 3-2 series lead – with less than eight seconds left on the clock in Game 6. LeBron misses a three-pointer, rebounded by Bosh, who dishes it out to the legendary Ray Allen. Allen shoots a three-pointer off-balance and guarded…swish. You simply can’t plan for these kinds of plays. This shot extended the series to a Game 7, which the Heat went on to win. Ray Allen’s shot would bring another $100 million to the NBA.
There is an NBA salary cap that prevents rich team owners from shelling out sky-high player salaries, keeping the league fair. To make extra money, the players turn to endorsements. Let’s take a look at two of these. LeBron James has apparently signed a billion-dollar lifetime deal with Nike. Steph Curry’s Under Armour endorsement is reported to be worth around $14 billion to the company. Not only is pride on the line with some of the greatest players in the NBA history, but their brand worth is as well. There are billions of dollars to be made outside of the NBA, so why would a player that could make an impact of throwing the game risk doing so?
Steph Curry responds to all the haters who turned his white Under Armour sneakers into a meme 😂😂😂https://t.co/tk2v01pGxX
— Complex Sneakers (@ComplexSneakers) June 11, 2016
This is where things get a little hazy. People are naturally sceptical when plays are being reviewed behind closed doors and most assume it is a bunch of guys with suits and cigars in dim lighting scheming against your favorite sports team. I’m obviously not a part of this club, but when I am I’ll let you guys know. As far as these sorts of calls go – such as Draymond’s controversial suspension – my opinion is very mixed. If it’s a really close call that could honestly go either way, and one way means your business makes millions of dollars, what would you do?