M.J. disagrees with LeBron: ‘I never thought 82 games was an issue’
When it comes to the state of the NBA, there are not many better voices than two of the best players of the past two-plus decades, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
When James was asked Wednesday about the league shortening a preseason game from 48 to 44 minutes, he responded that it was the amount of games, not their length that should be up for discussion.
"The minutes don’t mean anything," he said. "We can play 50-minute games if we had to. It’s the games that I think we all as players think is too many games in our season. Eighty-two games are a lot."
Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, responded Thursday with a much different take than the current game standard-bearer.
"If I wasn’t playing 82 games, I still would’ve been playing somewhere else because that’s the love for the game I had," Jordan told ESPN. "As a player, I never thought 82 games was an issue."
Jordan also questioned if players would be willing to give up the money reaped from more games, arguing that less games would mean less dough in players’ pockets.
James was joined in agreement on the subject by another current star, the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, who said the regular season should be downsized from 82 games to the "mid-60s."
That was the case just a few years ago in 2011, when the lockout reduced the regular season schedule to 66 games.
The NBA’s lucrative new TV deal would also have to be taken into account. ESPN and Turner just laid down $24 billion over nine years for a slate of regular season games plucked from an 82-game schedule. Would the deal have to be renegotiated (for less money) with less total games?
But to James, it’s more important to have the players at their top form.
"At the end of the day, we want to protect the prize and the prize is the players," James said. "We have to continue to promote the game and if guys are being injured because there are so many games, then we can’t promote it at a high level."
Maybe down the line this will be an even greater topic of conversation — James said it’s an issue players and owner "will have to sit down and try to figure out" — but for now at least, the lines are drawn in the sand with prominence on both sides.