NBA Schedule: Stop Complaining

There has been substantial talk this NBA season about how tough the schedule is; teams are playing multiple back to backs, all with at least one back to back to back, something we as fans, and they as players aren’t really accustomed to.  The condensed 66 game schedule is proving to be a major obstacle for team success and player health.  With that in mind, I wanted to look back at another decade of basketball, the 1960’s, when real men were holding court.

Here are two examples:

1960 Boston Celtics– 75 total games

The season started off at a regular pace (November and December), but once they hit January, schedule got chaotic to say the least. They played a total of 18 games in January including:

5 in a row from Jan. 1-5
3 in a row from Jan. 29-31
3 additional back to backs 

In February, they played a total of 19 games including:

3 in a row from Feb. 5-7
4 in a row from Feb. 18-21
4 in a row from Fed. 23-26
3 additional back to backs

They played a total of 20 regular back to backs the entire season. What made it even more tough was that most of the games were in different cities.

Okay, now let’s look at one more example:

1961 Philadelphia Warriors– 79 games

They played a total of 17 games in November, including:

4 in a row from Nov. 9-12
5 in a row from Nov. 15-19
4 in a row from Nov. 26-29
3 additional from back to backs

In January, 17 games including:

4 in a row from Jan. 12-15
4 in a row from Jan 26-29
2 additional back to backs

In February, the Warriors played a total of 20 games including:

3 in a row from Feb. 1-3
4 in a row from Feb. 7-10
4 in a row from Feb. 15-18
3 in a row from Feb. 21-23
5 in a row from Feb. 25- Mar. 1

3 in a row from Mar. 3-5
3 in a row from Mar. 9-11
The played a total of 9 regular back to backs that season.

Let’s put this all into perspective now. I do not think there are any teams this year playing 20 back to back sets.  Additionally, no team is playing more than 3 back to back to back sets. Shoutout to the OKC Thunder for sweeping their recent back to back to back, impressive. There is definitely no team playing 4 or 5 nights in a row at all.

I know you may be thinking that the intensity of the game today is much, much greater than that of the 60’s.  Of course, with more rest in today’s game, players are rested and thus, the intensity of each game does increase. I can’t argue that, but what I’m saying is that athletes back then took their jobs a lot more seriously than players do today. Also, how much more efficient would those players of the 60’s have been with at least one or two days of rest between games? Not to mention how much more efficient would they have been, had they had the luxury of playing 38-40 mpg, instead of 45+?

This sort of research makes me respect players such as Wilt and Russell who were playing these tough schedules while logging 42+ minutes per game, traveling coach instead of 1st class, and with no trainers on the road with them.  For example, Russell often was excused from practices/scrimmages so that he could have more energy during games. Go read his book, Red and Me, and learn something. Another example: Wilt played with a torn calf muscle, for 48 mpg, in a ‘three games, in three days’ playoff series in the 67-68 playoffs.

Yes, fatigue is a huge factor and I’m sure their fatigue did affect the quality/intensity of the games.  At the same time, what if these men were playing today, and had the luxury of shock-resistant padded flak jackets, arm sleeves, and even softer basketballs … ? Imagine how good they would be. Here is my point: today’s league is filled with players who look at basketball as something fun, something they live for but very few ( I see you Kobe, we respect your commitment to game unlike most others ) would give their lives for the game.  I mean, LeBron recently sat out games because of a sprained ankle! Come on man. Back then, Coach Auerbach and his posse would have beat the living daylight out of Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry lack of commitment; Today, they have decade long careers making millions of dollars.

Players in the past, in this case the 60s, viewed the game as their livelihood, as their job and gave it 100% every single day.  It is that kind of work ethic that elevated the sport to the iconic level it has today, but too often we discredit the past for absolutely no reason. So hopefully we can stop complaining about today’s schedule, and these players can put in full effort each and every day because that’s what they are supposed to do. Maybe, just maybe, today’s players can stop spending time on Twitter, stop going out to clubs, stop all the tomfoolery they take part in, and remember that they are paid big bucks to do a job: play ball.  Stop being little wimps for insignificant injuries, and understand that as long as they can walk and move their limbs all right, they need to be out there giving full effort.

-Rohit Ghosh

—–

“Tell me, were you in the joint?
The night Wilt scored 100 points
Or when Celtics won titles back-to-back
And didn’t give nobody, no kind of slack”

Kurtis Blow – ‘Basketball’

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