NBA adaptation: sports set the example amidst the pandemic

The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous repercussions on the sports industry as we know it today, as the different modalities had no alternative but to suspend the competitions.

There are plenty of examples: looking at the USA alone, the sports that generate the highest financial income for the country - such as the Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) - saw their competitions stop, with evident and severe consequences.


What happened last season at the NBA?

Players, technical staff, media professionals and employees from different sectors are needed to get the NBA going. Everyone would have to be tested to minimize the risk of an outbreak within the league. According to the NBA board's calculations, 15 000 tests would be needed to complete the 2019-20 season. But what did the NBA do?

Consciously and selflessly, no tests were taken while health professionals and other essential workers or people with symptoms need them. Therefore, the NBA was the first sports competition to stop in 2020, but it would also be the first to resume the season after introducing a set of measures that would become an example for sports worldwide. It is considered that the NBA expertly dealt with the economic impact of COVID-19, while also taking advantage of a new, even more, competitive format, dubbed the "bubble".

The suspension of the competition lasted five months. The estimated economic impact amounted to €1.2 billion, given that teams had to suspend subscriptions, suffered from the absence of public and consequent lack of ticket sales and revenue from merchandising.

But the renowned American basketball league was also the first competition to be resumed, with a new health safety format that would inspire other sports and competitions, such as the Tour de France, tennis "Grand Slam" events or MotoGP, which all rushed to follow in NBA's footsteps.


The numbers

Ticket sales are the NBA's primary source of revenue, accounting for 40% of the American basketball league's total income, which in the 2018/19 season scored around €2.8 billion.

Also affected by the season's suspension were television contracts: at the time of the outbreak, TV operators had not yet gotten the minimum of 70 games provided for in the contracts. If the competition had not resumed, the NBA would have to compensate operators with colossal values, between €730 and €810 billion.

Meanwhile, a complex political situation involving freedom of speech and China came about after Houston Rockets CEO Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong protesters, causing the broadcasting of games to be cancelled in the Chinese territory, a move that implied a loss of €325 million.


New NBA recipes

Five months after the suspension, the NBA resumed the regular season's final games and the resulting play-offs last July. The organization chose the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Disney Orlando park as the venue for the competition, a 101-square-kilometre complex featuring a hotel with almost 2 000 rooms divided into different "villages". 

Having the "bubble" at Orlando ended up costing the NBA about €146 million, but that high costs were upended by the fact that the NBA managed to generate €1.4 billion in revenue.

At the same time, the NBA faced additional economic difficulties brought about by the pandemic. The organisation supported each team with around €25 million each, addressing the team's immediate liquidity problems, once again setting the example for other sports. The total amount came in at €730 million, which the NBA procured by issuing debt among institutional investors.

Meanwhile, the NBA increased its debt capacity from €530 million to €970 million during the pandemic, lending to 22 teams to finance their operations. Teams were also allowed to procure new sponsorships from previously prohibited partners, such as Casinos or alcoholic beverages' brands.


This world-class competition showed a high capacity for adaptation

In high competition sports, those who show higher levels of commitment and long-term planning were equally able to exhibit extraordinary ability to adapt to extreme situations such as the present health crisis.

Sport is just one of the areas of society highly affected by the pandemic. It is up to everyone involved in the sector to bring back its essence, progressively restoring all modalities' vitality and their main events. Sports medicine has also contributed and will play an essential role in the post-pandemic period. In global terms, the world will have to overcome social difficulties at various levels, and professional sports are no exception.


Present and future hope

At this stage, the USA is moving forward with its aggressive vaccination plan, moving into the immunization of the global population has risk groups are already protected. More than 167 million people received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and more than 62.4 million Americans also took the second and final dose, accounting for about 18.8% of the country's population.

The COVID-19 vaccine is already a reality for many NBA players. In early April, some teams vaccinated their players, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks. The recovery path is already very concrete and present, so the NBA is expected to quickly return to its most brilliant days. It's a good sporting and community example!

Back in Portugal, where Move Sports holds its international tournaments, vaccination is proceeding, although at a slower pace. Nevertheless, sports activities are restarting as the deconfinement plan moves forward. Learn about the steps we take to make our sports tours, training camps and tournaments safe!