Are Newly Ushered NBA Play-In Games Harmful to Players’ Mental Health?

The NBA has been a vanguard for conversations surrounding mental health in recent years. Now with the NBA play-in games, a whole new wrinkle to the fold has been introduced.

For the longest time, the two best words in all of sports have been – game 7. Undoubtedly so, there is no replacing combative competition that culminates to the ultimate neutralizer of a game 7 matchup. Each team pours their entire physical, mental and intellectual prowess onto the court until it is totally their time to shine in one final matchup.

Now, the NBA is no stranger to the funds. They know that the pandemic and slight lapses in action have caused their bottom line to shrink in a minor way. Nearly a stone’s throw in the ocean for the revenue that the league makes, they decided to be proactive with a new postseason method to rev up the ratings.

But are the play-in games really fair for NBA players’ mental health?

nba mental health
The wear and tear certainly takes a toll… (via Sports News Instant)

NBA players’ mental health has been put to the test in recent years

The question becomes: does this newly created competition spike benefit the players? That answer can be left to interpretation as many of the responses may vary on a case-by-case basis.

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Above all else, this development is certainly testing the strength and mental health capacity of players on teams who were not able to secure one of the first seven seeds in their respective conference(s). 

This is not the first time we have seen expansion and experimentation leading into the playoffs. NCAA continues to add play in games prior to the March Madness field of 64 and the NFL just added two additional slots to expand their postseason playing field as well. 


The NBA play-in games represent the disconnect between the league office and the players

The overarching theme this season has been the disconnect between NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his constituents. Last summer, Silver was gung-ho about instituting social change efforts and allowed the players to voice their issues on social justice issues. 

nba play-in games
The run for the Larry O’Brien Trophy commences this week (via BeamClo)

The players responded immediately with warm-up gear, accessories and addressed systemic issues in nearly every post or pre-game press conference. Many players chose to utilize their platform to speak out for the injustice surrounding Breonna Taylor’s murder (Louisville, KY).

In what lasted as a brief trial run for social justice messaging, Silver quickly noticed a plunge in ratings and decided to save face. 

When it comes to professional sports, there is no greater determining factor than the financial bottom line. It is unfair to the players who work tirelessly to demean their efforts.

It is a much different story when players wish to be traded or seek a new team as people will spare their feelings due to the fact that it is business and not personal. Uprooted from original team? It’s all a part of the business!

But when players decide to voice their opinion on sociopolitical matters? Just stick to sports! 

It is almost as if the players are puppets in a sense – only meant to perform a certain role and obey those who pull strings. Clearly, we know this to not be true as many influential athletes continue to voice their strong opinions via podcast networks and social commentary. 


What bigger NBA star’s mental health to look at than the King himself

Many athletes have become prominent activists via LeBron’s UNINTERRUPTED Network. LeBron James has been one of the most outspoken when it comes to the current state of our country.

It is LeBron who first spoke up and admitted that it felt like a “slap in the face” when the Commissioner reinstated the All-Star Game after vowing to take a hiatus from All-Star Weekend. 

LeBron James and Draymond Green on Uninterrupted
Hounds on the court, activists off the court – LeBron and Draymond are an unlikely pairing to voice their worldly concerns (via Uninterrupted)

LeBron is a very calculated player and measures the days in a bionic manner. Meaning, his freakishly gifted physique and wholesome body regimen needs ample amounts of rest as he will block out these days on the calendar months in advance. 

During these days, LeBron goes through cryogenic and highly advanced restorative medicine. So, when Silver tacked the All-Star Game back onto the schedule, LeBron lost 5 transformative days that were set aside to replenish and restore nutrients + vital minerals within his veteran system. 


The NBA saves face, changes course and all the while shows its backside

So, as quickly as the NBA provided this foreground to advocate last summer, they snatched it right back in a dash toward ‘normalcy.’ Certainly, voicing political opinions and using the magnitude of their persona to effectuate change could not be considered normal. 

nba mental health
The way that Stephon Marbury is revered in China makes one wonder – do all players receive this harsh treatment? (via Unsplash)

There are too many hootin’ and hollerin’ fans who despise displays of political opinion in sole favor of the fantastical escape that sports bring. God forbid, the players embody a brief social role that they wish to exhibit.


So are the NBA’s play-in games fair to players?

Yes, I understand athletes make millions to play the game that they love but these men and women work harder to earn that top dollar. Therefore, their opinions should be valued even moreso. In an ideal setting, no amount of consumer backlash would be able to stifle those genuine sentiments. 

nba play-in games
LeBron and Adam Silver share a dap and a moment (via ABC7)

Now, players are being asked to perform at an even higher level during these play-in games. The action and sheer excitement from the likes of a winner-takes-all scenario is wonderful for the viewers – us – the connoisseurs.

But, for players that are given less rest and asked to prepare more just to put it all on the line – the situation is rather hectic. 

Without a doubt, their mental health is in jeopardy and they must nourish themselves properly to maintain good standing. Evidently, it is possible for every person at hand to achieve. Furthermore, expect the NBA to institute new and exciting ways to create enthralling action as the years progress.

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