LeBron James was wrong. 3 reasons play-in games are godsend for NBA

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LeBron James NBA play-in tournament game

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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was once again battered by his haters after claiming that the one who came up with the play-in tournament should be fired.

LeBron James’ Take On Play-In Tournament:
Here’s what the Lakers star had to say on the matter just a few weeks before the 2021 NBA playoffs.

LeBron James on the play-in tournament: “Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired”
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 3, 2021

 
It would’ve been understandable if this was the first time he shared his thoughts on it. But just last season, the first time the tourney was implemented, James was all for it.
“One thing you can’t just do is go straight to the playoffs, because it discredits the 60-plus games that guys had fighting for that position.
You got Portland. You got Memphis…New Orleans and Sacramento tinkering around there…so if there’s five or ten games left…why not those guys battle it out? Make them play each other all five games?”
Now that the Lakers are on the brink of participating in the play-in, James backpedaled from his initial statement. This is understandable. Given James’ competitive drive and quest for greatness, he would want things to go in his favor. However, the Lakers’ current reality might have blinded James. LeBron James’ initial thoughts on the play-in were right. The play-in games are actually a godsend for the NBA, whether he agrees with them or not.
 
High Stakes Basketball = Better Narrative

The play-in tournament reeks of high stakes in every aspect. The Lakers’ case is an interesting point. From winning it all last season, their 2020-21 NBA season was met by injuries to both stars, which translated to loss after loss. They’ll play the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tourney and need one win to secure the seventh seed. NBA fans would go bananas if the Lakers manage to win it all again as the seventh seed. It would make for a great narrative for James. It would make a good case for his quest to be named the Greatest Of All Time.
Apart from this, the play-in tourney raises the overall value of the postseason. Sure, some teams don’t have a fighting chance against the elites. But the playoffs have always been the most feasible goal for rebuilding teams. We’ve seen throughout history how perennial playoff teams turn into championship contenders. Just look at the teams like the Utah Jazz or the Philadelphia 76ers who, in the past, have made the postseason as a mid-tier squad. Now, after years of taking it step by step, they have a legitimate shot at that elusive title.
 
Suppresses Tanking

The NBA has tweaked its draft lottery rules to discourage teams from tanking. Simply put, before 2019, the lone team with the lowest winning percentage had the highest chance of getting the number one pick. Now, the three bottom-feeding teams have an equal shot at drafting the prospect that could turn their franchise around. The play-in tourney seems to have complemented the league’s anti-tanking measures.
Earlier in the month, 24 of 30 NBA teams were all contending for the playoffs. It eventually dwindled as more spots were decided through the games. But before the play-in tourney, teams in the 10th to 12th spot happily losing their games to move further down the standings with hopes of boosting their lottery chances. The play-in tourney, in a way, disincentives this behavior more. As noted, three teams with the lowest winning percentage have an equal shot at the no. 1 pick. So if a team is nearer to the 10th spot than the bottom, then the commonsensical choice would be to move further up to qualify for the play-in.
 
Stirs Up Fan Interest Leading to Postseason

For the past few weeks, fans have been making their own calculations on how many wins their team needs (as well as praying for other hopeful teams to lose theirs) to qualify for the play-in tourney. They very well know that even if their team manages to qualify for the postseason either as the seventh or eighth seed that they still don’t have a fighting chance to win the coveted title. But the mere fact that they’re still watching their team play at this point in the season is already a win for the NBA.
The reality is that NBA ratings are going down. It’s difficult to pinpoint the real reasons behind this. But the play-in tourney has created a new way of engaging the fans with hopes of locking some of their eyes in for the entire playoffs. And if you’re LeBron James, in order for you to succeed in being the GOAT, you need more fans as witnesses to your greatness.

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