Why Was the In-Season Tournament So Successful?


A topic that was previously divisive, many NBA fans have begun to share the sentiment of the success of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.

Viewership was up 26% from the same time last year. That’s a statistic. A number. Numbers don’t lie. So what was it that allowed the remarkable rise and success of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament?

Indiana’s Cinderella Run

Tyrese Haliburton understands the importance of the IST to younger teams, such as his, who may be unable to compete for the real thing.

And it was clear just how much they cared. They went undefeated until the final hurdle. Their surprising run and captivating style, paired with the meteoric rise of Haliburton to the doors of superstardom, captured the imagination and excitement of basketball fans globally.

Perhaps their striking court design also helped their social-media attraction (more on that later).

Their win-or-go-home run was reminiscent of a young Davidson team. In fact, their runs are remarkably paralleled. Each included an overlooked, relatively unknown young point guard making a name for himself on the global stage, each with their own type of enthralling offense. Each’s final matchup were against heavyweights of their level.

For Stephen Curry, it was Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson and Mario Chalmers. For Tyrese, it was the championship duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Each failed at their final hurdle, but not before becoming household names, etched into basketball folklore.

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LeBron’s GOAT Argument

You can argue all you want about whether this means anything in the GOAT debate, but the fact remains that LeBron James is the first-ever In-Season Tournament champion and MVP.

Jordan hasn’t done that. LeBron knew he had a chance to take one over MJ, and he took it. He fully embraced the challenge and competition of the IST. Previously, NBA discourse doubted just how much the players would care. This gives other players a reason to care. LeBron is a trendsetter, and his caring is a sentiment many NBA players will surely develop. Now that LeBron has won one, future players who want to contend for the GOAT title may see winning these tournaments as a key way to progress.

The ‘Bold’ Courts and Jerseys

The striking court and jersey designs have been a point of contention thus far. Some people love them, some hate them. But I’m yet to see anyone who feels neutral about them. They are shocking and abrasive, the perfect ingredients to get things to go viral on social media. So, suddenly, on opening night, the IST is the number one trending topic on Twitter, although many fans simply said they didn’t care for the competition.

So why did this topic generate so many clicks, tweets and likes? The Pacers IST court was leaked.

It was different. Then, as we got closer and closer to the commencement of the newly coined NBA Cup, more and more courts began to leak.

They were different. Whether you like them or not, this was a genius marketing move by the NBA to get eyes on games, particularly in a part of the year where fans don’t typically care enough to watch.

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