The Big LeadThe Big Lead

One Solution to the NBA's Award Show Problem

With all of the basketball focus placed on the NBA Draft this past week and on the upcoming big free agency period ahead, let me take this time to remind you that the NBA Awards show is on Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

Yes, those awards, where we’ll finally get to see who’s taking home the league’s MVP, Rookie of the Year and other awards will finally be announced officially 10 days after the end of NBA Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors take the league’s throne over the previously reigning and beaten up champs, the Golden State Warriors.

The confetti has since been cleaned up off of the streets of Toronto and plants once taken and given as gifts have been replanted – hopefully. NBA teams have already gone through the draft process and are getting their freshly drafted rookies and other players ready for the upcoming summer league in Vegas while preparing themselves and their wallets for a potentially big free agency period.

In short, the league is ready to turn the page onto a new season.

Yet, the awards remain unannounced. The fact that the NBA Awards Show is nearly two weeks after the end of the season is potentially more absurd than the league’s one-and-done rule. Even if the Finals went to a Game 7, the show still would have aired over a week after the end of the season, and it’s so late that everyone has just about forgotten who should’ve won what from the previous campaign.

In short, as the previous NBA season ended, so did everyone caring about what happened last season.

The NBA Awards hasn’t always done well ratings-wise. The inaugural NBA Awards show in 2017 pulled in a 1.1 rating with 1.79 million viewers, according to sportsmediawatch.com. Last year’s NBA Awards took a step backward, only earning a 0.8 rating with just 1.21 million viewers. Compared to the 2018 NFL Awards (3.5 million), or the Heisman Trophy presentation (2.2 million), the NBA Awards were a bust.

There are ways to fix the NBA Awards Show lateness while keeping it relevant and important, and even allowing for the event thrive. One place to look for a workable solution to their problem is the way the NFL handles their awards; the central takeaway is that it simply comes down to timing. If the NBA wanted to maximize that timing, one option presents itself: hosting the awards the day before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The annual NFL Awards show takes place the night before the Super Bowl, celebrating the season coming before the game’s biggest spectacle. The NBA has two big events during its calendar year: the All-Star week and the NBA Finals. The All-Star break obviously isn’t feasible for regular-season awards, which leaves the Finals as the point of highest interest in the NBA for most people.

With that in mind, there were five days in between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 of the NBA Finals, while the Warriors had 10 days off after sweeping Portland in the West Finals. The NBA Awards should be during that week in between the end of the conference finals and Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Everyone’s focus is on the NBA during that time and either TNT or ABC could take the coverage – TNT would do a better job given their overall great coverage of the NBA, but it’s unlikely they could steal such an event from a major network like ABC.

This idea also works as an ideal opportunity to pay tribute to the NBA season. It’s still fresh in everyone’s minds, and the event could act as a great appetizer in the time off leading into Game 1 while allowing the league spotlight to naturally shift towards the Finals without everyone bringing up the fact that we still don’t know who the regular season MVP is.

The change shouldn’t be hard for the NBA. The one clear obstacle is that the best players, those regularly up for these awards, may be more busy preparing for the Finals than at an awards show in New York or L.A. That hasn’t stopped or hurt the NFL, however, and they have coped; in 2017, the injured Julian Edelman accepted the league’s MVP award on behalf of Tom Brady, who played in the big game the next day. There are workarounds to be found, and with declining ratings and the 2018-19 season feeling a thousand miles in the rearview already, there simply must be a change.