Why Bother Watching NBA Regular Season Games?

It’s not clear that competition is the point

John Werth
5 min readJan 27, 2022


Photo by Laslovarga from WikiMedia Commons

One of my favorite podcasts is The Right Time with Bomani Jones, which I recommend highly. The eponymous host is a sportswriter, former music reviewer and pop culture critic, and holds multiple degrees in economics. He has a wide range of interests and you can never be quite sure where the show will go, such as a discussion of player salaries ending up in an analysis of cryptocurrency.

The episode that inspired this piece featured Jones and guest Domonique Foxworth (also an interesting guy, a former NFL cornerback who post-career went to Harvard Business School and married a lawyer) discussing their lack of interest in regular season NBA games. They hit on some points I agree with, but never got around to other obvious ones.

Disclaimer: the following is aimed at the neutral viewer, not the hardcore fan. All y’all root your hearts out.

Too many games

Their #1 point was the season is too damn long, and that’s absolutely the most significant issue. It’s the same dynamic with the NHL — there are only so many hours-long blocks of free time. Even just following my former hometown Vegas Golden Knights and current hometown Seattle Kraken is too much. I end up recording the games and skimming. The playoffs are coming, I’ll pay more attention then. Ditto for the NBA.

But basketball has other problems as well.

Too little drama

The NBA is the league with the fewest surprise teams, and by the first preseason game it’s pretty clear who will make the playoffs. Even the seeding is generally predictable.

In other words, before the season even starts there are maybe four teams out of 30 with realistic championship aspirations, and another 15 or so jockeying to lose in the playoffs. The bottom third of the league tip off their first game already playing out the string, the only intrigue being which ones are making an honest effort to win and which are tanking for a better draft pick.

If you’re doing the math, that means about 82% of the league will play all 82 games as a wait-’til-next-year scenario.



John Werth

Musician and conductor, repairer of woodwinds, owner of dogs, band director, lapsed mathematician, and scribbler of thoughts on humor, politics or both at once.