What the NBA May Need: a Soccer-Style Way to Banish Bad Teams

Dave Checketts believed he had experienced pretty much everything in his decades-long career as a sports executive. As the Knicks’ president, he had hired Pat Riley as coach in 1991, launching a memorable decade of championship contention at Madison Square Garden. As a founding owner of an M.L.S. franchise in Salt Lake City with his company, SCP Worldwide, he had negotiated a partnership with Real Madrid that helped to produce one of the early soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and an M.L.S. Cup title in 2009.

But none of Checketts’s years in the N.B.A., N.H.L. (as owner of the St. Louis Blues for a few years starting in 2006) or M.L.S. had prepared him for a Sunday in May 2022 when Burnley, the English football club, was relegated from the Premier League for the first time in six years — in a stomach-churning, one-goal defeat, at home, on the season’s final day.

“For a regular-season event, I’d never witnessed anything like that,” said Checketts, who had been appointed to the club’s board of directors in 2021. “It was gripping, and then, it’s over, you’re relegated, out of the top league. Fans were sobbing. It was a funeral service. But because I was at home in Connecticut, I could look at it from a distance, also see it as business strategy.”

He recalled telling his wife, Deb, “The N.B.A. needs to do this!”

In a calmer state, he recognized that North American professional basketball lacks the lower-league infrastructure of European soccer to consider for promotion/relegation, among other cultural and financial disqualifying factors. But in a recent discussion, Checketts, 67, spoke with The New York Times about the increasing connectedness of global sport.

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.