A deep dive into the NBA rest problem


The greatest soap opera in all of sports returns next week. The National Basketball Association kicks off the 2018-2019 season. I am quite excited folks. You see, the NBA really never takes any time off.  In today’s social media age, the NBA is by far the most active of any professional sport. The game itself does take a break. It will be great to have the Association back in our lives once again.

A big issue that has come up in the last few years is NBA players taking games off for rest. One of my friends, we will call him Tom, was chatting with me about the difference between college basketball and the NBA. Tom prefers college basketball and he brought up the point that NBA players take days off and the regular season isn’t exciting night in and night out. Tom is right. NBA players take days off. This got me thinking, is this a new epidemic? Did the Bulls of the 90s take days off because they played back to back nights? I had to contact the Stay Tuned Folks stat department to get some more insight into the NBA’s rest problem.

I took a look at everyone’s favorite argument, MJ vs. LeBron. Two of the best players in the history of the NBA also endured very few injuries throughout their career. This would be key to see if MJ really ever took any games to rest. We all know LeBron and many superstars nowadays enjoy rest.

Michael Jordan: 11 out of 15 seasons played 80 or more games

LeBron James: 3 out of 11 seasons has played 80 or more games

One of the seasons Jordan did not play 80 games was the 94-95 season in which he returned to basketball after his suspension from the NBA. I mean his hiatus to play baseball, sorry guys. My bad.

They both averaged just over 38 mins per game throughout their career. This is not to say one player is tougher than the other. I know Jordan fans love to point out how tough Jordan is, how soft the era LeBron plays in, and how much he flops. We get it, calm down. LeBron clearly has rested a lot more often throughout his career. Nine out of his 11 seasons he has played 74 games or more. He plays a lot. He is a machine. Machines nowadays just need some time to recharge their batteries.

My stats department then took a look at the top 25 scorers from the 1997-1998 season compared to the 2017-2018 season. I was curious to see if maybe Jordan was just on another planet and other players took rest days.

1997-1998 season: 17 out of the top 25 scorers played 80 or more games.

2017-2018 season: 8 out of the top 25 scorers played 80 or more games.

1997-1998 season: 37.6 minutes per game average for the top 25 scorers.

2017-2018 season: 34.6 minutes per game average for the top 25 scorers.

These top performers in the NBA are not only playing in less games nowadays, they are also playing less minutes per game. The NBA is literally robbing us of entertainment folks!

The main question here is why? Why are players taking games off now? Why didn’t players twenty years ago take more days off? Does any of this make sense? Why is the sky blue? All questions we need answers to.

The main reason I think players sit is personal investment. NBA teams and players realize injuries can ruin seasons and careers. They take any chance they can to sit their superstar. NBA teams know all they really need to do is make the playoffs. As long as they are healthy by then, the rest will solve itself out. Players on the other hand also realize their body and physical health puts money in their Chase account. If they are hurt, they will not be buying the Bentley. Plain and simple.

Another reason that could be the reason is the advancement of modern technology. Modern technology has given us a lot of analytical data on pretty much everything. Teams now know exactly how each body part on their players is performing. They can tap into pretty much anything they want. They realize rest is valuable. Back in the 90s a lot of this data was not available. Nutrition and health was not the biggest concern on an athlete’s plate. They enjoyed plenty of beverages post game, ate pizza, and played games hungover. I question why players didn’t sit more often simply for that reason. It is difficult for me to run a mile when hungover let alone play in a professional basketball game. You also could argue that modern technology and medicine would allow players to recover faster. Maybe the human body can only recover so fast regardless of modern technology. Who knows, we have no doctors on staff here at STF.

Lastly, it comes down to toughness. In 2018, some people are soft. That is just a fact. Society as a whole has become soft. What you could get away with in the 90s  doesn’t fly now. This could also pertain to basketball. Back then, they did not worry about injuries or their next contract. Sounds stupid now but that is just how it was. The NBA was a very tough league back then. There was no flopping. People were jumping into stands to fight fans. It was wild.

I personally love the NBA. I don’t know what can be done to prevent players from sitting out games. I don’t like that fans pay money to go see their favorite player only to find out they’re sitting out because they played in Houston last night. That isn’t fair. I see both sides. I understand this is a business. I understand the player is looking out for themselves. There is no problem with that. The NBA needs to figure something out scheduling wise where players won’t be missing games.  Help us out Adam Silver, we will continue watching I promise.


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