You Know, 66 Games Sound About Right

NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout. But they should be careful what they wish for.

The plan, according to reports, calls for a 66-game season beginning Christmas Day. And when it’s over, I’m guessing fans and the media (and probably the players) will be clamoring for a 66-game season every year.

I thought maybe I was just being Grumpy Old Sports Editor about this. So I ran it by the biggest NBA fan in our office. “Absolutely,” he said. “Too many games right now. It would be easier on players, which is better for fans. I would rather have fewer games, fewer injuries, and better play.”

So there. It’s official. Not that it will ever happen. If enough people are willing to attend games between the Clippers and the Kings in November, then those games are bringing in revenue. It’s all a matter of supply and demand; if people are going to buy the extra games, then the league will keep selling them. I can understand that.

But the 82-game NBA regular season is one of the most needlessly elongated, laborious endeavors in sports. And I think that diminishes the overall interest in the regular season.

NBA teams played 72 games in the mid-1950s. That went to 75 games, then 79, then 80 for several years, then 81, and finally 82 starting in 1967-68. Now, each team plays a home-and-home against the other conference, four games against division foes, and either three or four games against the rest of the teams in their conference.

If they played all teams from the other divisions in their conference just three times apiece, that would reduce the regular season to 76 games. It wouldn’t be as enjoyable as 66 games, but it would be a start, and it would be simple to implement.

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