Playing In

The NBA Playoffs begin tonight.

Yes, they begin on a Tuesday night now. More like a Tuesday afternoon depending on your time zone.

Of the 30 NBA teams, 20 of them still have a chance of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy this season. All thanks to one of the best rule changes we've seen in recent sports history.

The idea of expanding the NBA Playoffs was not on anyone's radar 14 months ago. The league already saw more than half its teams qualify for every postseason. It's not uncommon at all for teams with sub-.500 records to make the Playoffs.

So how did this great new format come to be? Through the difficult circumstances of the past year. 

When the 2019-20 season was suspended during the pandemic, finishing the season became a possibility. One major hurdle was figuring out how many games were to be played in the Disney World Bubble. Teams had somewhere from 19-15 games left on the schedule when the season was suspended, but cramming that many games into such a short time-frame with only two courts was not feasible.

So the league innovated.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers played a play-in game to decide which team would get the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Basketball fans around the world were treated to a 126-122 thriller on a Saturday afternoon. Nobody could deny Portland earned that playoff spot.

It became clear this concept would be entertaining even in a normal postseason. Among the games we get this year is a Wednesday night showdown featuring LeBron James and Steph Curry. That's a whole lot more fun than waiting until Saturday for them to play routine Game 1s on the road.

The pandemic was a difficult time for everyone, the sports world included. But the NBA Play-In Tournament is a concept born out of shrewd thinking during a tough time. 

We know that all too well.

One of the driving factors behind the Cyclone's creation was counteracting COVID on the football field. We didn't realized its long-term value until we saw players experience it, just like NBA fans didn't realize the excitement of the play-in tournament until they saw a game. 

Tigeraire was not granted a seat at the table of sports technology. We played our way in.