The 2023-24 NBA season started with a vengeance. As NBA players grapple with injuries, one issue has gained particular attention: the new rules for award eligibility. To be considered for awards like the All-NBA and MVP, players must now play in at least 65 games and 20 minutes in every game with allowances for two exceptions. These restrictions put players and their contracts under intense scrutiny. For example, Tyrese Haliburton missed 11 games due to a hamstring injury and only played 13 minutes in the game where he was first injured. This jeopardizes his eligibility for these awards and the financial future that could follow redeeming such honors.
The new rules might lead to perverse incentives where players overextend themselves, furthering the chance of serious injury. In the case of Joel Embiid, who has a history of health issues and has been dealing with a knee problem, he might push himself to play despite the risks. The consequences of these rules are broad and underline the limited options available to players while supporting an untenable status quo.
As viewership figures show signs of leveling in recent times, the NBA is effectively trying to fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken. Rather than addressing key structural issues such as the length of the regular season or the format of the playoffs, the league has chosen to burden its star players with these arbitrary award eligibility requirements. Ultimately, it raises questions about the NBA’s priorities and its treatment of player well-being.