PHOENIX — The NBA may emerge from the pandemic on better financial footing than it first anticipated, though Commissioner Adam Silver warned Tuesday that it’s too early to declare things fully back to normal.
Silver, at his annual pre-NBA Finals news conference, said he believes the league weathered the pandemic and all that came with it — including much less revenue from the lack of fans in arenas for much of the last 15 months — relatively well, noting that even he was surprised to see many teams were able to have full buildings during the playoffs.
“Financially, for the season, without getting into it too specifically, we did somewhat better than we initially projected,” Silver said.
Silver had said that the lack of in-game revenue — ticket sales, concessions, food and drink and the like — may have meant the league would see a 40% dip in that cash stream. But, in part because some arenas had fans later in the regular season and then more than 1 million tickets being sold in playoff games, that dip could be closer to 33%.
“No question, the league will incur significant losses over the past two years,” Silver said. “I will say though, I’m not here to complain about that. Just speaking for our team owners, they view it as a long-term investment in the league and something very necessary to keep these organizations going. And by the way, it was shared sacrifice by our players as well.”
Players took “significant reductions” in salary this season, Silver said, something that was negotiated by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. That hit will be spread out over several seasons.
The league — which estimated its loss in revenue from last season at $1.5 billion — plans on returning to normal this fall, with the season starting in mid-October and likely being of the common 82-game duration. The number of games is still in some question because the play-in tournament isn’t officially back for next season, though it has long been expected that the league’s board of governors will keep it going forward.
“If things continue on track and we can move toward a new season next year that looks a lot more like normal, we’ll have weathered it very well,” Silver said.