NBA Cup
Founded2023
Number of teams30 total; 15 per conference
Current championsLos Angeles Lakers
(2023)
Most championshipsLos Angeles Lakers (1 title)
TV partners
2023 NBA In-Season Tournament

The NBA Cup[1] is a National Basketball Association (NBA) tournament that occurs during the regular season. The tournament was officially announced on July 8, 2023, and it debuted during the 2023–24 NBA season. The first edition of the event was called the In-Season Tournament.[2]

The format is a multi-stage tournament beginning with group play followed by single-elimination knockout rounds. Group play consists of three groups of five teams per conference, for a total of six groups. Each team plays four group stage games which count towards both the NBA Cup group standings and the regular season standings. The winners of each group, along with one wild card team from each conference, advance to the knockout rounds. The final two rounds of the knockout stage are played at a neutral site.

The winning team receives the trophy, also called the NBA Cup, and each winning player receives a cash prize, which was $500,000 for the 2023 edition.[3] The first winner of the NBA Cup was the Los Angeles Lakers, with the tournament MVP being LeBron James.[4]

History

NBA officials discussed the possibility of holding an in-season tournament for at least 15 years before it was introduced.[5] The NBA has been concerned for decades about trying to compete with the National Football League (NFL) for viewers and attention when the two leagues’ regular seasons overlap during November and December each year.[6]

On July 6, 2023, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA would hold the first in-season tournament from November 3 to December 9.[7] The details of the tournament were revealed by the NBA on July 8; the group draws were announced and the semifinals and championship were scheduled at T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip.[8][9] On December 9, 2023, the Los Angeles Lakers won against the Indiana Pacers in the championship game winning the NBA Cup title.[4]

On February 2, 2024, the airline company Emirates announced a multi-year deal with the NBA including the naming rights of the NBA Cup, becoming the Emirates NBA Cup from the 2024 edition onward.[10]

Format

The tournament has a similar format to in-season, multi-stage tournaments such as WNBA Commissioner's Cup and those held in soccer. The tournament rules are as follows:[11][12]

In the event two or more teams are tied within a group at the end of the Group Play, the tie will be broken according to the following tiebreakers (in sequential order):

If two or more teams are tied for the wild card in a conference, after group tiebreakers are resolved, the wild-card tie will be broken following the same tiebreakers described above (with the exception of the head-to-head record in the Group Stage).[14]

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the players' union, said in 2023 that many players objected to the use of point differential and points scored as tiebreakers. These tiebreakers, according to one report, encouraged teams to run up the score, in violation of the sport's unwritten rules. Players, coaches, and other league employees have suggested alternative tiebreakers, such as limiting point differential to a maximum value per game, or using the number of quarters in which a team outscored its opponent.[15]

Uniforms and courts

In-Season Tournament Court at a Los Angeles Lakers game

For the NBA Cup games, home teams wear the "City" edition uniforms and games are played in basketball courts especially designed for the event. The courts, unlike the ones used in the regular season, feature a fully-painted maple surface with a contrasting middle color strip painted from each end of the free-throw lane. The NBA Cup is displayed at center court, and silhouettes of the trophy are also painted on the free-throw lanes.[16] The court designs are based on the home team's "City" uniform for that particular season.[17]

Not all teams were able to play on their new NBA Cup courts. The Dallas Mavericks' two home NBA Cup games in 2023 were played on more traditional basketball courts due to manufacturing issues affecting their NBA Cup court.[18]

Reactions to the unique court designs were mixed, with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban saying he "wasn't a fan" of the courts, though he did admit that they were a "brilliant marketing idea."[18] Some players, including Jaylen Brown and Luka Dončić, complained that the new courts were slippery.[19][20] Some fans complained on social media that the courts were too bright and distracting.[21]

For the semifinal and final rounds at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the tournament court is blue with a red middle strip.[22] However, despite playing all tournament games in their black "City" uniforms through the quarterfinals, the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to wear their gold "Icon" uniforms in the semifinal round due to lack of contrast with the court,[23] against the wishes of Lakers players. The Indiana Pacers were also hit with the same restriction.[24]

Impact on the regular season

With the exception of the championship game, all games in the tournament are counted as regular season games.

To adjust for the differing number of games played by different teams, the NBA's regular season scheduling formula will be modified so only 80 games for each team are initially announced prior to the beginning of the season, with the 81st and 82nd scheduled games to be announced:[13]

Awards

After the tournament, the winning team receives the NBA Cup, the design of which features a black cup surrounded by eight gold prongs, and a base inspired by the new conference championship trophies. The league also awards an NBA Cup Most Valuable Player award, championship medals and an All-Tournament Team.[25]

Winners

Main article: List of NBA Cup champions

Year Winners Result Runners-up Venue Location Ref.
2023 Los Angeles Lakers 123–109 Indiana Pacers T-Mobile Arena Paradise, Nevada [26]

MVP

The winner of the Most Valuable Player award is decided by members of a selected media panel, as well as by online fan votes. In the inaugural tournament, 20 votes were decided by media members while 5 votes were decided by fans.[27] LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was the inaugural MVP winner.[28]

Year Most Valuable Player Team Ref.
2023 LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers [28]

All-Tournament Teams

References

  1. ^ Herbert, James (February 8, 2024). "NBA In-Season Tournament renamed 'NBA Cup' with Emirates as a sponsor". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on February 8, 2024. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  2. ^ Herbert, James (February 8, 2024). "NBA In-Season Tournament renamed 'NBA Cup' with Emirates as a sponsor". CBS Sports. Secaucus, NJ. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  3. ^ "NBA goes bold with flashy announcement of In-Season Tournament". NBA.com. Archived from the original on July 9, 2023. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Dopirak, Dustin (December 9, 2023). "Anthony Davis posts 41 points, 20 rebounds to beat Pacers in IST final". Sports. Indianapolis Star. ISSN 1930-2533. Archived from the original on February 8, 2024. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Tim (July 8, 2023). "NBA reveals long-awaited plans for in-season tournament that'll start in November". Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 8, 2023. Retrieved November 8, 2023. 'This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,' [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver said.
  6. ^ Deveney, Sean (July 9, 2023). "NBA In-Season Tournament: Doubt Adam Silver At Your Own Peril". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 8, 2023. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  7. ^ Rajan, Ronce (July 7, 2023). "NBA Today Special Episode to Announce 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament on ESPN". ESPN PR. Archived from the original on November 4, 2023. Retrieved July 8, 2023.
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  9. ^ Bontemps, Tim (July 8, 2023). "NBA officially unveils format, groups for new in-season tournament". ESPN. Archived from the original on July 9, 2023. Retrieved July 9, 2023.
  10. ^ https://www.emirates.com/media-centre/emirates-named-global-airline-partner-of-the-nba-and-title-partner-of-the-emirates-nba-cup/
  11. ^ Quinn, Sam (April 9, 2023). "NBA in-season tournament: How the league reportedly plans to structure its new spectacle". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on June 21, 2023. Retrieved July 8, 2023.
  12. ^ Rohrbach, Ben (April 7, 2023). "NBA Fact or Fiction: Is the in-season tournament a good idea?". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on May 18, 2023. Retrieved July 8, 2023.
  13. ^ a b Bontemps, Tim (August 15, 2023). "What is the NBA in-season tournament? Format, schedule, groups". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on August 15, 2023. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
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  16. ^ "NBA debuts In-Season Tournament courts for all 30 teams". NBA.com. Archived from the original on October 30, 2023. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  17. ^ "2023-24 Nike NBA City Edition uniforms unveiled". NBA.com. Archived from the original on November 2, 2023. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  18. ^ a b Wimbish, Jasmyn. "Mark Cuban wasn't a fan of Mavericks' In-Season Tournament court, and team won't even get to play on it". CBSSports.com. Archived from the original on November 29, 2023. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  19. ^ Magruder, Jack. "NBA In-Season Tournament Has Traction Issues On And Off The Court". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 28, 2023. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  20. ^ Golliver, Ben (November 18, 2023). "Prominent NBA players are questioning the safety of tournament courts". Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  21. ^ "NBA fans react to jarring jerseys, court designs for inaugural in-season tournament". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on December 4, 2023. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  22. ^ "In-Season Tournament Court Time Lapse". NBA.com. Archived from the original on December 7, 2023. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  23. ^ McMenamin, Dave. "Lakers' switch from black uniforms mandated by NBA, source says". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on December 7, 2023. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  24. ^ Lukas, Paul (December 7, 2023). "'That's Ass': NBA Nixes Lakers' Black Uni Due to Court-Contrast Concerns". Uni Watch. Archived from the original on December 7, 2023. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
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  26. ^ "NBA Cup final: Anthony Davis and LeBron James inspire LA Lakers to historic win against Indiana Pacers". BBC Sport. December 10, 2023. Archived from the original on December 10, 2023. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
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  28. ^ a b Aschburner, Steve (December 10, 2023). "LeBron James wins first-ever In-Season Tournament MVP". NBA.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2023. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  29. ^ "NBA In-Season Tournament: LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline All-Tournament Team". December 11, 2023. Archived from the original on December 12, 2023. Retrieved December 12, 2023.