Jun 5, 2020 - Sports

How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar

Illustration of darts on a 2020 calendar
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The NBA's Board of Governors approved Thursday the league's 22-team plan to resume play at Walt Disney World — a plan that also includes tentative dates for both this season and next.

Why it matters: The league's proposed trip to Disney World not only impacts this season but could have a domino effect that impacts seasons in the future — and could permanently change what time of year the NBA plays its games.

Calendar: These tentative dates, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic's Shams Charania, suggest that this year's champion could have less than a month off before next season begins.

  • Training camp: June 30
  • Travel to Orlando: July 7
  • Season restart: July 31
  • Draft lottery: Aug. 25
  • Season end: Oct. 12 (last possible date)
  • Draft: Oct. 15
  • Free agency: Oct. 18
  • 2020-21 training camp: Nov. 10
  • 2020-21 opening night: Dec. 1

The backdrop: Back in March, pre-coronavirus, Hawks CEO Steve Koonin proposed starting the NBA season in mid-December (rather than mid-October) and ending it in August (rather than June) to avoid having to compete with football in the fall, while dominating more of the summer months when the only other show in town is baseball.

  • Three months later, that plan is basically happening. The NBA listed Dec. 1 as next season's tentative start date, and unless teams play fewer games or some other adjustment is made, the season would likely end around August.
  • It's unclear if that would become the permanent NBA schedule, but it would certainly be easier to continue with December–August at that point than try to reset it back to October–June by cutting another offseason short.

The big picture: The NBA isn't the only league whose schedule has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, which means we could be looking at a completely new sports calendar in 2020, 2021, and possibly beyond.

  • NHL: Last year, the Blues won the Stanley Cup on June 12. This year, hockey will be played in the heat of summer (weird) and we won't have a winner until the fall.
  • Premier League: The season was originally scheduled to end on May 17. Instead, it will restart on June 17 and end on July 25.
  • PGA Tour: Last year, the Masters was in early April and the season ended on Aug. 25. This year, the Masters is slated for mid-November and the season is scheduled to run through December.
  • MLB: Who knows what will end up happening here, but unlike the NBA and NHL, MLB doesn't have nearly as much scheduling flexibility because it's an outdoor sport and winter looms.
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