NBA arenas might be full by 2021-22, but Global Games will have to wait

Those among us who have been anxiously awaiting our rare opportunity to see an NBA game live and in person outside of the United States and Canada might have a little longer to go than we might have hoped, with league commissioner Adam Silver breaking some relevant news during his annual pre-All-Star Game news conference.

While Silver anticipates a return to something like normalcy by the 2021-22 season, international fans in countries like France, the United Kingdom and Mexico where regular season games have increasingly been conducted will likely have to wait to see live games in their home countries despite full or nearly so arenas in the US.

“First of all, no plans yet to travel for next season,” he began. 

“In all likelihood, we won’t travel internationally until the following season at the earliest. But the plan remains to try to resume our season as close to so-called normal as possible next year. It was one of the reasons why, in setting the schedule this year, we decided to stop in mid-July.”

“We both wanted to allow those players who wanted to participate in the Olympics to do so, but in addition we realized if we were going to get back on cycle,” added Silver.

“We didn’t want to go deep into the summer or fall, as we did last season.”

Noting that about half the league already has fans in their arenas in some capacity, the commissioner related his optimism the NBA would be able to start on time for the following season. He also added that he expected to have “relatively full arenas next season” so long as vaccines prove to be as effective as early results have shown them to be.

With the league’s wider ambitions regarding potential expansion at the NBA and G League level having taken at least temporary steps back due to the pandemic, this should probably come as no surprise given the substantial outlay required to put together the Global Games program.

Add in the uncertainty of how the emerging viral variants of Covid-19 could impact the league’s future in its existing markets, holding off for another season makes sense on a number of levels.

But don’t expect those of us who will have to wait still longer for the return of the league to our far-flung fandoms to be especially excited about it.