Drawing that depicts some of the NBA’s biggest stars of 2021. Photo courtesy Gustavo Morales/DeviantArt.

Justin Staggers
Sports Editor

Custom courts, new jerseys, and $500,000 for each player of the winning team are just a few features of the new tournament, which Commissioner Adam Silver has titled the “NBA Cup.”

For the first time in the history of the league, the 2023-2024 NBA season will feature an in-season tournament consisting of all 30 teams. The tournament first tipped off on Friday, Nov. 3 with a handful of marquee matchups highlighted by a late-night showdown between the Mavericks and the reigning champion Nuggets. 

According to the NBA website, “the In-Season Tournament will provide players and teams with another competition to win, engage fans in a new way and drive additional interest in the early portion of the regular-season schedule.”

The NBA regular season spans 82 games over a six-month period, making for a long and enduring season for not only the athletes but also the fans of the game. Due to that, viewership throughout the season is ever-changing and subject to more volatility as opposed to other major sports. There are a ton of professional sports being played in the early months of the NBA season, making for an uber-competitive setting when it comes to rating. During the early months of the season, the NBA has to compete with not only the NFL, but also CFB, NHL, and the MLB Playoffs among a handful of other major sports. Adam Silver and other executives of the NBA see this tournament as a chance to help stabilize ratings throughout the season, specifically in times when viewership may be more likely to decline. 

“What we saw was that November, December was a time of year where people were still very focused on the NFL, understandably. A lot of people think we (The NBA) don’t get going until Christmas Day said Adam Silver in an interview on First Take. 

Format of the tournament:

  • Based on win-loss records from the 2022-2023 season, teams are split into groups of five inner-conference teams. Each team will play one another once in the group stage, with two games at home and two on the road. Group play runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 28. 
  • Eight teams (six group leaders and two wild card teams) will then advance to the knockout round. This round will be decided with single-elimination games between the remaining teams. 
  • Winners of knockout rounds advance to the final four in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9

The tournament games that take place in group play, the knockout round, and the final four will count towards each of the teams’ regular season records. However, the final game of the tournament will act as an unofficial 83rd game for two teams, with the championship not counting towards the finalist end-of-the-year records. 

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, coaches as well as players of the winning teams will each receive a $500,000 bonus. While this may not mean much for stars of the game such as Gainnis Antetukpomo, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, rookies, and other players earning a relatively smaller contract could use this extra incentive. There are 142 individual players who are on a current NBA contract making less than $2,500,000 annually, with sometimes little to none of it being guaranteed. 

Like all things, the widespread implementation of this tournament will take time. I am sure there will be small details that need to be changed along the way to better manage the tournament as it becomes a part of the league annually. However, this tournament has proven so far to be an exciting way to keep the players and fans engaged in what will be a long, six-month, 82-game NBA season. 

Adam Silver understands the difficulties of changing the format of the NBA season, especially at a time when other professional sports are being played simultaneously. In his interview with Stephen A. Smith on “First Take,” Silver addressed the long road ahead in making this an annual tournament in the NBA.

So far, reactions regarding the tournament have been mixed. Some players and analysts are having trouble seeing the value in the tournament. However, players such as Damian Lillard seem to really enjoy the upbeat, playoff-intensity style of play. 

“It’s weird because the energy, you can tell something is happening, but it’s new so I’m not sure what the hell is going on,” said Lillard after the Milwaukee Bucks opening-round matchup against the New York Knicks.