Despite setting up a bubble season that was largely successful — lauded as the gold standard for other sports — the NBA reportedly missed its season-long revenue projections by $1.5 billion.
The league, which was the first in professional sports to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restarted its 2019-20 season on July 30. The Orlando bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus, which initially included 22 teams, was estimated to cost $200 million.
Ultimately, the NBA lost 171 regular-season games. Restarting the season, however, was also reported to have saved the league $1.5 billion in additional losses. The NBA raked in over $8 billion in revenue during the 2018-19 season.
Other factors that contributed to the league’s losses include lack of in-person fans during the restart — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly told NBA players back in May that 40% of the league’s total revenue is generated from games with fans in attendance.
Also adding to that was the rift with China sparked by former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in October 2019.
In response to the tweet, China’s CCTV ceased broadcasting NBA games until Game 5 of the 2020 Finals and a handful of Chinese companies cut ties with the league. Silver estimated that the league would accrue over $300 million in losses as a result.
Morey announced he would be stepping down as GM of the Rockets after 13 years on Oct. 15, citing personal reasons.
For the 2020-21 season, the NBA is said to be considering an approximately 72-game schedule that would start around Christmas. Initially, Silver said that a January 2021 start seemed likely; according to an Associated Press source, starting in December instead of early next year could “generate a difference of roughly $500 million in revenue.”