In August, Major League Baseball did the coolest game broadcast ever: they played on a cornfield. The MLB not only went to Iowa to pay tribute to Field of Dreams, it also juiced as much as it could out of the movie by letting Kevin Costner participate in what is one of the best openings to a game ever.
Of course, our first thought was “why hasn't the NBA done something like this?” For the last two decades, the NBA has inarguably been the most innovative among North American sports leagues with their on- and off-court products. So if Adam Silver is interested, here are some ideas for unique presentations the NBA can try to spice up the regular season.
Play at Rucker Park or Venice Beach
As recently as a few weeks ago, the NBA was reportedly already exploring the feasibility of holding a game at an iconic outdoor court after the success of MLB's Field of Dreams game.
"The biggest concern is the basketball one you highlight, whether it’s blacktop and injury concerns or a wooden court outside with humidity concerns and moisture that can get on the court, being beholden to rain, all of those things become a consideration. We’ve explored it, and we’ll continue to talk about it," Evan Wasch, NBA executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics, said on The Crossover podcast with Howard Beck and Chris Mannix.
"Obviously, the Field of Dreams game was incredibly successful. So, no surprise it has sparked some discussions, and it’s worth exploring. But the logistical challenges of a basketball game outside are just significantly more than a baseball game, which, of course, is already outside."
The hurdles are massive for the NBA to execute an official outdoor game. First off, basketball is mostly an indoor game and NBA players are already very sensitive to slight changes, imagine if they had to play on a different surface with weather factored in. Then, you have the issue of the live experience. The two likeliest venues for a game like this are Rucker Park in New York and theVenice Beach courts in California. Both barely offer any seating, so it will be a massive challenge trying to fit an entire NBA production in those small spaces.
But if there’s any league that can do it, it's the NBA under Adam Silver. This league invented the sports bubble that was adopted in some form by leagues, TV productions, and corporate ventures around the world. The league is in a great position now to hold a Rucker Park game with both New York teams being competitive. They would have no problem getting Kevin Durant (dropped 60 at the Rucker) and Kyrie Irving (Uncle Drew) to sign off on this. The NBA should make this happen for the culture.
Bring us back to the ‘80s
An execution the NBA can do, especially for its 75th season, is a simple throwback broadcast, similar to the NBC/CBS-style broadcasts in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The aesthetics of this era was sublime – from the old-school commentators to the screens unadorned by tickers, massive scoreboards, or any other graphic. The best thing about watching old broadcasts is it feels like they’re highlighting the game and the players the most with barely any distractions. We’re already at a time of copious movie and TV remakes, why not bring some of that nostalgia to sports?
A broadcast like this has been at the top of the wishlists of fans from across all sports. The NBA has a distinct advantage here since a lot of the old NBA venues are still up today. They could easily hold a Lakers-Clippers or Lakers-Celtics game at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood and pump as much nostalgia as they could into the broadcast. They could even have someone like Frank Ocean recreate Marvin Gaye's iconic national anthem performance.
Make it bigger
To the NBA's credit, the league has already tried holding an outdoor game. From 2008 to 2010, the Phoenix Suns held preseason games at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, to varying levels of success, mainly due to the weather.
The NBA could realistically hold a game within a football arena with a roof just like the NCAA. There are plenty of reasons why this could end up being a bad idea, like obscured depth perception for players and such. But there’s also plenty of reasons to do it. The NBA already tried this by playing the 2010 All-Star Game at Cowboy Stadium.
For one, the NBA lacks a massive spectacle event like the Super Bowl. It's impossible to make one basketball game that massive, given how the playoffs are decided through numerous series. But what if the NBA reserved Game 1 of the Finals for a neutral venue, like Cowboy Stadium, and build up to it like the Super Bowl? This gives both finalists an equal number of home games (the team with the better record could have Game 7 on their court.) This could be the singular event the NBA could use to further expand its reach.