League format causing a rise in the number of NBA superstar injuries?
The 2020-2021 season was set to be legendary. Supposed to go down in history as the battle of some of the most insane super teams. Nets superstar trio KD, Kyrie, Harden and several others who packed the craziest firepower. Lakers coming off their first ring since Kobe in 2010. LeBron- AD duo still holding godly status. Anybody who did or didn’t have money bet on them making the finals. There was no way it wouldn’t happen.
Neither of them made it. Not even close. The Lakers and Nets were eliminated before they even made the conference finals. Now a detailed analysis of how the teams performed is complicated but a simple overview could tell us a lot. It likely wasn’t a lack of coordination or chemistry between these superstar teammates. In fact, nobody even remembers the last time James Harden was so selfless with the ball. So then what could it be?
Both teams were plagued with several injuries:
Nets: Harden out for the start of the series against Milwaukee and Kyrie also sat out with an ankle injury.
Lakers: Anthony Davis struggled throughout the season, Lebron James also suffered several injuries throughout the season leading to tougher playoff matchups and lesser times for rest after their extra-long 2019-20 season.
“I always think from the moment we entered the bubble to now, it’s been draining,” 2020 NBA finals MVP, Lebron James, said after his team’s first-ever first-round playoff exit. “Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally draining…..Every team has to deal with it, obviously. But with us and Miami going the long haul in the bubble and then coming right back on short notice to this season, it’s been draining.”
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton reported that the number of players sidelined per game due to injury was 5.1, the highest since he started tracking in the 2009-10 season. Elias Sports Bureau reported that league All- Stars missed 370 out of a possible 1994 games (19%), the highest in league history. Jeff Stotts, certified athletic trainer who maintains one of the most accurate public databases for NBA injury data reported that a record 2,909 games (72 game format) were lost to soft-tissue injury, the highest since the 2017-18 season (82 game format).
Each of these superstars has to play 82 regular-season games, not to mention up to 28 postseason games if they succeed in the playoffs and make it to the finals. Add in practice and travel times, these players are practically preparing for injuries. Several reports and mentions by his business partner Mav Carter show that Lebron invested over $1.5 million to stay injury free. It is common for elite NBA players to shell out six and seven figures just to stay healthy. However even players like Lebron James who spend this much out of pocket on personal health can only delay injuries for so long. His recent injuries, although minor, have been warning signs of his constant exertion in the league. Due to the pandemic, even the NBA schedule went haywire. Those who made it to the finals last year received barely a few weeks of an offseason, a joke to say at the least. The offseason and breaks in between games are especially important for athletes to recover their muscles and joints. Each game is a testament to their peak performance, utilizing each and every ounce of their bodies to put on a show and compete in the most revered basketball league in the world. However, without proper rest and recovery time, they are shortening their careers due to this added risk of injury.
The NBA is truly risking the health of its players just to keep the show going and a revision of the league format and schedule is long overdue. In hopes that we get to see our favourite players healthy for the years to come, the NBA needs to take better care of its talent in the coming seasons