Disliked by LeBron, NBA’s Play-In Tournament Is a Fan Favorite

Fans are looking forward to seeing James take on Steph Curry and the Warriors in the play-in round

LeBron James drives on Stephen Curry
LeBron James drives on Stephen Curry at Staples Center.
Harry How/Getty

LeBron James may not like the NBA’s new playoff format, but it appears that fans of the league are also fans of the recently adopted play-in postseason model.

Per a recent Morning Consult survey, 63% of NBA fans, including 79% of self-identified avid fans, approve of the introduction of the play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff seeds in each conference. In contrast, only 12% of NBA fans said they disapprove of adding more teams into the playoff mix via the miniature round-robin tournament.

“Millennial and Generation Z sports fans were more likely to approve of the play-in tournament, which is scheduled to run Tuesday through Friday, than fans from Generation X and the baby boomer generation, but even older sports fans were more likely to support the idea than to oppose it,” according to Morning Consult.

A poll conducted in December 2019 when the league was discussing the concept with the NBA Players Association and its broadcast partners found 51% of NBA fans said they favored the play-in competition, while 21% dissented. 

This year’s edition of the play-in format, which was adopted last year after the league went into a bubble in Florida last summer to finish the season with the COVID-19 pandemic still surging, will begin for the Eastern Conference with No. 10 Charlotte at No. 9 Indiana and No. 8 Washington at No. 7 Boston this evening.

On Wednesday, the Western Conference will feature No. 10 San Antonio at No. 9 Memphis and No. 8 Golden State taking on James and the seventh-seeded Lakers in Los Angeles. The Warriors-Lakers game is shaping up to be the best game of the NBA season. It is also the first time James and Golden State’s Steph Curry — who led the league in scoring this season with 32 points per game — will face off in a playoff game that is not taking place in the NBA Finals. (They’ve played 22 playoff games against one another.)

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