NBA Has "No Mechanism" in Place to Crown Champion if Season Canceled

Jordan Cohn
April 15, 2020 - 1:08 pm
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Today was supposed to be the final day of the 2020 NBA regular season, with the playoffs set to begin on Saturday, April 18. The field would have been set. The young players would have been gearing up to play the most important games of their careers, the veterans ready to return to the big stage. For the next month or so, games would have progressed, pinning top team against top team until the bracket was narrowed down to just two teams, and the eventual champion would be crowned days later.

Of course none of that is happening now. We don't know when it will happen. We don't know if it will happen. And according to the NBA bylaws, the league won't know if there will even be an NBA champion if the season is canceled, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Stein says that though the Bucks are best in the league with a 53-12 record, you shouldn't "expect them to be rewarded for it in any meaningful way" if the league is unable to continue the 2019-20 season. That's because the NBA doesn't have any rules in place that would determine how the league would go about crowning a champion in the event that the playoffs don't happen.

Although Adam Silver said that the league is in "listening mode" for ideas on how to resolve this potential scenario, Stein says that "some sort of vote would be required to name a champion without a postseason." What good that would do any team other than the Bucks is unknown.

Never before has the league failed to crown a champion. Lockouts occurred in both the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons, but the games that were missed took place at the beginning of the regular season. Should the season be canceled and the league fail to crown a champion, the Bucks and the Lakers are the two teams that lead their respective conferences.

The Lakers' last NBA Finals appearance came in 2010, when they won the second of back-to-back titles, this time over the Celtics. The Bucks, on the other hand, have not been to the NBA Finals since 1974 when they lost to the Celtics in a seven-game series. The 1971 Bucks earned their only title with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge leading the charge.

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