When the NBA In-Season Tournament (IST) was announced, there was skepticism amongst fans and players alike.
However, with the inclusion of new courts and specific dates the games were played on, the games had a distinct feel. With the allure of a trophy, a semifinals in Las Vegas and let’s not forget half a million dollar prize for each player on the winning team. It created a level of competition and excitement the NBA has never seen in December.
The Lakers won it all and hung a banner to commemorate the achievement. The defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks against the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals was used as an example of Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin’s deficiencies leading to his firing after 43 games as coach despite being the No. 2 seed in the East. The IST Final was the most-watched non-Christmas game during the regular season in nearly six years.
The games mattered and although it was the inaugural season, once it was done, it became abundantly clear the tournament was here to stay.
We’re starting to get details on what the sophomore year of the IST will look like, and the latest, according to Mike Vorkunov and Joe Vardon from the Athletic, is the tournament getting a new name; the Emirates NBA Cup.
“The NBA In-Season Tournament will now be known as the Emirates NBA Cup after the league and company announced a new multiyear deal that will include title sponsorship rights for the airline. Emirates will also have its logo on patches added to the jerseys of referees across the three leagues run by the NBA.”
The sponsorship does add to the league’s growing relationship with the United Arab Emirates, where Emirates is headquartered as well as being owned by a government subsidiary. In recent years, the NBA has held a preseason game in the UAE and USA Basketball played a pair of exhibition games prior to the FIBA World Cup last summer.
With so much success coming from the IST, it makes sense for the NBA to monetize it better moving forward. That means selling the name, potentially an exclusive deal on where the games will be televised and, hopefully, an even bigger purse for players to pursue.
The IST did precisely what the NBA wanted it to do. It gave us important games and higher-quality performances during the dog days of the season. So many questions remain on what the next iteration of the IST will look like. Will the IST stay in Vegas? Exclusive jerseys for the games or the semifinals? Will there be more regular-season games included as part of the tournament? Will the Lakers ever lose an IST game?
With the IST being a rousing success, the future of it and how the adjusts to the success is going to be interesting to watch in the coming years.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.