The NBA’s postseason play-in tournament is here to stay for at least one more season.
On Friday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reached an agreement to extend the play-in tournament to next season, according to ESPN. The NBA’s board of governors is expected to approve the decision in August.
The NBA first implemented a play-in tournament last summer when the 2019-20 season resumed after a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament lasted for the 2020–21 season, featuring 10 seeds from number 7 in each conference.
The innovative format drew criticism from many of the league’s top players, notably LeBron James, who declared that the tournament’s creators “needed to be fired” in May. After finishing the regular season in seventh place in the Western Conference, the James Lakers competed in this year’s play-in tournament, defeating the Warriors to remain in the seventh-seeded playoffs.
League officials hoped that the play-in tournament would discourage teams from tanking, as it increased the chance of making the playoffs by involving more teams. The format was also seen as a possible mechanism to maintain fan engagement, particularly among poorly performing teams.
Fans welcomed the format with enthusiasm; The Lakers-Warriors play-in game on May 19 saw 5.62 million viewers, at the time becoming the most-watched NBA game on ESPN since 2019.
On the flipside, when the Warriors lost to the Grizzlies in their second play-in game, the NBA lost its biggest draw to ex-MVP Stephen Curry. Under the previous playoff format, Curry and the Warriors would have continued to field as the eighth seed.