Should Load Management be Banned from the NBA? Professional Sports, Fans & the Entertainment Ind
(Photo from sbnation.com)
For many basketball fans there is one element of the NBA that has become a controversial issue in recent years: Load Management (the resting of usually elite players to preserve their energy and health status).
In recent years, it has become so controversial that its honestly worth asking: Should it be banned from the NBA? In a poll taken for The Sports Rooster, when asked if load management should be banned, 32% of respondents stated “Yes” while 68% stated “No.” Let’s dig into some of the arguments that have been provided generally for why load management is bad or good to see why it should or should not be banned.
In conversation with others there is usually one major argument about why load management is bad that leads one towards wanting to ban it from the league. This is the “fans pay good money" argument which follows that people pay a lot of money to go to games, many with the sole intention of seeing superstar players play. If the league keeps allowing teams to rest their stars, fans may simply stop going if there is a good chance that they won’t even get to see the elite player of a team play. This may ultimately result in a huge decrease in revenue for the NBA.
Some go as far as to describe athletes that sit out as “breaking a deal” they make with fans when they pay to go see them and these athletes don’t show up and entertain. This argument really emphasizes the significance of the nature of the entertainment industry that professional sports find itself in as this argument is a fairly economic, transaction based one that is admittedly quite convincing.
On the other side of things there are many who emphasize the major benefit of load management that orients one towards not wanting to ban it from the league, which is that load management is an effective strategy for preserving superstars for playoffs and championships.
For those in support of load management, they argue that it’s an efficient strategy for preserving the health of elite athletes who will be relied on heavily in playoffs and championships, which is what is really important for teams.
Take Toronto and Kawhi Leonard for example.
Say Kawhi was never load managed and was injured in the regular season becoming unable to play in the playoffs. As a result, the dagger shot that sent Philadelphia running home and Embiid running for tissues never happens. The Raptors may have never won their only championship. This argument emphasizes the importance of preserving athletes for the times they are really needed; Times when both teams and fans rely on them the most.
So, should load management be banned? Well, for some, there is a middle ground solution best described as “load management in moderation.” Arguments from this camp usually follow that what the league needs to do is cap the number of games that players are allowed to sit and further to provide earlier notice to fans before a game that they will be sitting out so that fans don’t spend good money to see them and ultimately leave disappointed. Regardless of where you sit on the issue, I feel we all can agree it’s a fascinating topic.
The issue of load management is fascinating for several reasons, but I think that it is the insights it provides on societal perceptions of professional sports as a component of the broader entertainment industry and athletes as entertainers for fan amusement that is most interesting.
Professional sports is not only an area for competition, it’s a stage and athletes in turn are not only heroes of sport, they are actors involved in a transactional arrangement with thousands of adoring fans. It’s fascinating to see just how these perceptions effect opinions on issues like load management, and ultimately how we expect athletes and athletic organizations to behave.
Perhaps the old saying is true: All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, some of us just appear to produce more controversy than others.
Let us know what you think about the issue of load management!