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How the NBA Season Works, by Himank Chhaya, age 11


Illustration by Spencer Hanson, 11, for the story titled "Blue Eyes" by Eve Driver, 13, published in our July/August 2011 issue

A lot of people don't know how the NBA season works. Those people might be die-hard NBA fans, but they still are oblivious as to why their team made the playoffs and why they didn't. So, here it goes.

The season begins with preseason; those are kind of warm-up games, getting the teams ready for the rigors of the NBA season. After the 8 games of the preseason end, the real fun begins.

The first game of the season is called the opener. That one game can decide a season, or do nothing at all. If Team A wins the game, they go to 1-0 in the standings, and Team B goes to 0-1. This keeps on going for all 82 games until the playoffs. There are multiple things in the standings, however, that I shoud bring to your attention. The first is a column that shows the amount of wins the teams are behind the first seed team. The second column is an average of the wins and losses of the seasons. If a team won 60/82 games, then their average would be 0.77 percent. A perfect 1 percent would occur if a team won all 82 games. That's never happened—a 1 percent has never happened.

In the middle of the season, you get All-Star Weekend, which showcases the best talents in the NBA. Contests include the Dunk Contest, the Rising Stars Challenge, the Skills Challenge, and the Game itself. Captains are selected and choose their players in a draft.

Let's go to the playoffs. Unlike football, where one game decides your season, the NBA uses a best-of-seven series. The teams are decided like this: the top 8 teams in both conferences, the East and the West. The matchups are sorted by pitting the first seed vs. the last seed, second vs seventh, third vs sixth, and fourth vs fifth. If Team A has a better record (i.e. 67/82 games) then they would get to have the first two games on their home floor, and then Team B would get the next two games on their home court. After that, it alternates. The winners of those matchups advance to the second round. The winners of those matchups reach the Conference Finals, and then the top team from the West and the East square off in the NBA Finals.

Latest winners:

NBA Finals and Eastern Conference FinalsToronto Raptors, 4-2, 4-2
Runner-up and Western Conference FinalsGolden State Warriors, 2-4, 4-0
Runner-up (East)Milwaukee Bucks, 2-4
Runner-up (West)Portland Trailblazers, 0-4
Second round winners (East)Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston
Second round winners (West)Golden State, Houston, Portland, Denver
First round (East)Milwaukee, Detroit, Toronto, Orlando, Boston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Brooklyn
First round (West)Golden State, Los Angeles (Clip.), Portland, Oklahoma City, Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Utah

Reader Interactions


  1. This is a very well written post. Learned a new thing “perfect 1 percent”. Keep up the good work!

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