Why are There 82 Games in NBA Season

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In Season 1967-68, the NBA had 12 teams, each playing 82 regular games. The NBA evolved, the league experienced phenomenal growth, superstars were born, and games became more exciting, but the NBA 82-game format still holds.

Since the NBA adopted the format fifty-four years ago, the league has become one of the most successful sports leagues worldwide. The format allowed the players to display their talents by providing entertaining games to the delight of a global audience. Naysayers say the regular games are too long.

Read on to learn more and form your opinion about the league’s regular games format.

What is the NBA Play FormatWhat is the NBA Play Format?

The NBA is broken down into two conferences, Eastern and Western, with 15 teams for each conference, which makes 30 teams in all. Each conference is split into three divisions, with five teams per division fighting for playoff slots.

For easy reference, we prepared a table of all NBA teams showing their respective conference and division assignments.

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Atlantic Division Northwest Division
Boston Celtics Denver Nuggets
Brooklyn Nets Minnesota Timberwolves
New York Knicks Oklahoma City Thunder
Philadelphia 76ers Portland Trailblazers
Toronto Raptors Utah Jazz
Central Division Pacific Division
Chicago Bulls Golden State Warriors
Cleveland Cavaliers LA Clippers
Detroit Pistons Los Angeles Lakers
Indiana Pacers Phoenix Suns
Milwaukee Bucks Sacramento Kings
Southeast Division Southwest Division
Atlanta Hawks Dallas Mavericks
Charlotte Hornets Houston Rockets
Miami Heat Memphis Grizzlies
Orlando Magic New Orleans Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks San Antonio Spurs

A team’s performance determines whether they enter the playoffs round. At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams from each conference advance to the playoffs. When the smoke clears, the team on top earns the distinction of representing their respective conference. The Eastern and Western conference champions face off for the right to wear the NBA Championship crown.

What is the NBA Play FormatPundits argue teams from the west play better basketball than their counterparts but miss playoffs. Their better win records give way to underperforming Eastern teams because of the NBA season format.

In 2016-17, the top two teams in the NBA fought for the Western NBA championship. The Golden State Warriors (58-25) engaged the Houston Rockets (65-17) in an epic Western Conference finals battle. The Warriors snatched the win with a down-to-the-wire game 7 to be crowned the Western Conference champions. The Warriors met the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32), sweeping them in four games to hoist the NBA Championship trophy.

The main thing here is the best NBA teams don’t make it to the NBA Finals or miss a playoff due to the NBA’s conference setup. It rarely happens that the two contenders in the NBA Finals showdown are the best teams in the league.  

How Do the NBA Playoffs Work How Do the NBA Playoffs Work? 

It’s playoffs, the end-of-season tourney for teams vying for the NBA crown. From 30 teams, it’s down to 20. The top six teams in their respective conferences progress to the playoffs. The seventh to tenth teams face off for the eighth spot in a play-in tournament.

Play-in tournament

The NBA adopted the play-in format for the 2020-21 season. There are 16 teams in the playoff round, eight each from the Eastern and Western conferences. The six teams from each conference with the best win-loss mark automatically advance to the playoffs. The seventh to tenth teams play in knockout matches for the eighth place. The seventh and eighth-place teams compete for seventh place in their conference. The loser stands by. The ninth and tenth-seeded teams meet, and the loser is eliminated. The team waiting plays the winner of the second for the eighth spot.

How do the playoffs work?

Teams are ranked from one to six based on the win-loss record in the regular season. In case of a tie, the league reviews the head-to-head record to decide which team gets the better seed. The team with the most wins in each conference winds up on top, and the worst team is seeded sixth. The play-in decides the seventh and eighth-place teams. Each team in the playoffs go through a best-of-seven elimination phase. In the first round of the playoff, the top team in each conference meets the eight seed, number 2 faces number 7, number 3 plays number 6, and number 4 versus number 5. The winners will play in the conference semi-finals and the last two advance to the conference finals. Each conference champion will face the other for the NBA championship trophy.

How do the playoffs workIn the NBA’s 2021-22 edition, the play-in started on April 10, and the NBA championship was played on June 17, 2022, won by the Golden State Warriors for their fourth win in the Steph Curry era.

Has the NBA Season Always Consisted of 82 GamesHas the NBA Season Always Consisted of 82 Games?

Professional basketball leagues had a few dozen games per season, mostly on weekends. In 1946 the NBA required players to leave their jobs and focus on playing the game. Initially, 11 teams were competing in 60-61 games each, but the budding business had to reduce the number of teams to eight, each playing 48 games in 1948.

However, more games kept the cash registers busy and more profits. Exhibition games filled the players’ schedule on time off, slowly stretching the Season. The 1953-54 edition was the NBA’s eighth Season. There were nine teams; each team played 72 games until the 1958-59 season.

The NBA family grew to 12 with the addition of the Seattle Supersonic and the San Diego Rockets in the 1967-68 season. The number of regular games increased, reaching the current tally of 82.

Here is a recap of the NBA seasons where teams played under 82 games.

Season No. of Teams No. of Games Played Notes
1946-47 11 60-61 Inaugural season started as BAA
1947-48 8 48 4 teams folded, 1 ABL team joined
1948-49 12 60 4 NBL teams joined
1949-50 17 62-68 BAA merged with NBL and renamed NBA

2 teams folded before the season

6 NBL teams joined

1 expansion team joined

1950-51 11 66-69 3 teams left for the NPBL

3 teams folded

1951-52 10 66
1952-53 10 69-71
1953-54 9 72 1 team folded before the season
1954-55 9 72 1 team folded during the season
1955-59 8 72
1959-60 8 75
1960-61 8 79
1961-62 9 80 1 expansion team joined
1962-66 9 80
1966-67 10 81 1 expansion team joined
1998-99 29 50 Season delayed and shortened due to lockout
2011-12 30 66 Season delayed and shortened due to lockout
2019-20 30 64-75 Season shortened and suspended due to pandemic
2020-21 30 72 Season shortened and suspended due to pandemic

The first time the games were cut short was in seasons 1998-1999 and 2011-12 due to lockout. 

Has the NBA Season Always Consisted of 82 GamesCOVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, cutting the NBA 2019-2020 and 2020-21 seasons. Games were played in the NBA bubble in Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in the 2019-20 season. Hundreds of NBA players were cut off from the outside world. Players, coaches, team, and league officials were quarantined in one place with COVID-19 testing to ensure no one was infected.

Qualified teams were in the NBA bubble from July 7 through October 12, NBA Finals. There were 22 NBA bubble teams, 16 were involved in the playoffs, and six teams were vying for the final slot, trailing the eighth seed in their respective conferences by six games or less. Teams eliminated from contention were allowed to leave.

In the 2020-21 season, the NBA and the Players Association agreed to play in the home arenas, with each team playing 82 regular-season games. The league sent an instruction manual to the teams to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19. The NBA will be strict with compliance; team and player violators face penalties that include warnings, fines, suspensions, or educational huddles.

When Did the NBA Adopt the 82-Game SeasonWhen Did the NBA Adopt the 82-Game Season?

In the 1967-68 season, there were 12 teams, and new franchises beefed up the NBA raising the regular-season matchups to the present-day total of 82. The NBA schedulers designated each team to meet the same conference opponents eight times and outsiders seven times.

Why Are There 82 Games in NBA Season Why Are There 82 Games in NBA Season? 

Teams grew from 12 to 30, but the number of games still holds because of the format followed by the NBA for fifty-four years. There are other reasons that we can look at carefully.


Money is the driving factor why there are more games in an NBA season. Franchises generate $2.1 million per game or about $170 million a season from ticket sales, concessions, TV deals, and sponsorship. The money is used to defray players’ salaries and other spending related to operating a franchise, the excess lands in the owner’s pockets.Why Are There 82 Games in NBA Season 

The NBA has a global reach, and there are more Chinese fans than the US population of 330 million. Imagine the amount of money the NBA make from the sales of the products endorsed by the league.

Physical Requirements

Basketball players are well-conditioned athletes, but like a machine, it breaks down if it continuously runs. We wouldn’t see the high levels of play from NBA athletes if they overplay. Even the 82 games take their toll on the players; for this reason, “load management” was considered. Coaches sit their star players to keep them injury-free and fit for the hard grind in the playoffs.


Fans and players are accustomed to 82 games per season; even if a new franchise enters the league, the number of regular games sticks. The regular season can accommodate only so many games, which run from October to April.

How are the 82 NBA Games SplitHow are the 82 NBA Games Split?

The modern-day NBA adopted the 1967-68 format of 82 regular games per season. Back then, there were 12 teams, and each team were required to play 82 games broken down in this way: 

  • Each team had to play teams in their conference eight times: 8 games x 5 teams = 40 games
  • Each team had to play outside teams seven times: 7 games x 6 teams = 42 games

Consequently, the teams grew to 30, but the number of regular games stuck. The NBA applies a formula to set the league schedule. The schedule is released before the start of the regular season and must be followed by every team.

NBA Scheduling Formula

  • Each team must play 4 games against the other 4 division opponents: 16 games
  • 4 games against 6 out-of-division conference opponents:   24 games
  • 3 games against the remaining 4 conference teams:   12 games
  • 2 games against teams in the opposing conference:   30 games 

Total:   82 games

Wrapping Things Up: Why are There 82 Games in NBA Season?

Why is the NBA season so long? Are fewer games better? These questions are difficult to answer since both sides have benefits and disadvantages.

Fans would love to see more games pitting the stars against each other. The cash registers of franchise owners will be kept busy with more games. An NBA game generates $2.1 million or about $170 million for an 82-game format. We’re talking of regular games only, and this does not include playoff rounds.

Basketball is a contact sport with many physicalities that take their toll on the players. Players get tired and injured, and a shortened season will do them good. The NBA has used the 82-game format for fifty-four years, and the organization has grown. It is doubtful that the number of games will change – at least for now.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here. 

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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