The sense in NBA contraction
by Julien Peter Benney
(Carlton North, Victoria, Australia)
Contraction of the NBA, as I see it, is common sense given two of the mast basic and distinctive features of basketball as a sport:
1) Basketball, because height is so much of an advantage even for less tall back-court players (see how John Stockton at 6'1" could never match with the 6'6"Michael Jordan for an example), is dependent on an extremely small population compared with most international sports. Most NBA players are found among the tallest thousandth of the population, and front-court players are drawn from the tallest thirty-thousandth. For this reason, even with a global reach the league is trying to maintain thirty teams from a population of six million or so. With front court players it must draw from a population of 300,000 - less than that of Wyoming!
The result is that the skill difference between players is much larger than in sports that draw from less small populations, and therefore the best players can command higher free-market salaries, with painful consequences for owners today.
2) Basketball's popularity worldwide is related to the fact that it plays exceptionally well on television due to the absence of wide-angle shots as found, say, in Australian football and to a lesser extent soccer. This telegenic character means it is not so important to have teams in every city since if people watch on TV they lose less from not being able to attend. Contraction would also allow more games to be televised, especially if teams could have their own TV (maybe even radio?) contracts.
For these reasons, contraction could allow for a more competitive NBA that does not lose money and attracts more viewers and other interest.