NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been the leader for the league’s return-to-play plan, and has done far better than others from other sports in his same position.
Part of this is because of Silver’s willingness to listen to his players and board of governors alike, including Charlotte Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan. Silver is the one who has received a majority of the credit for the 22-team plan that the league will be returning with in July.
Having six additional teams join the current 16 team playoff field gives fans more to root for and gives teams on the bubble a real shot at the postseason. And while Silver absolutely deserves a lot of credit, some advice from Jordan when it comes to the playoff format also went a long way, Silver explained on “Inside the NBA”:
“Once the playoffs start, and this was a point made by Michael Jordan — whose team, the Charlotte Hornets, are not one of the 22 teams — but he’s clearly the most respected voice in the room when it comes to basketball. He felt it was very important that after we establish the 16 (playoff) teams, that we not be gimmicky. Because there were a lot of proposals on the table to do unique tournaments and pool play like you see in international competition.
“We took many of those proposals very seriously. But ultimately, and I agreed with Michael, that there’s so much chaos in the world right now — even before the racial unrest we’re experiencing — that let’s come as close to normal as we can. And as close to normal as we can is top eight in the West and top eight in the East playing four rounds.”
Having a fairly normal plan was essential for maintaining the integrity of the 2019-20 season. Teams had already played upwards of 65 games, meaning a legitimate champion still can be crowned without any asterisks attached.
However, a World Cup-style tournament with a group stage might have thrown those 65 games out the window, making any champion not as legitimate.
While the 22-team plan does have some wiggle room for excitement and changes, there is still a 16-team playoffs that only will see possible change if there is first a play-in tournament.
Jordan deserves a huge amount of praise for realizing this and speaking about it, even though his Hornets wouldn’t have been involved either way. The NBA works so well because it genuinely feels like everyone is working together towards the same goal. Silver communicating with Jordan about the NBA’s return is proof of that.