In 2012, the 13-3 San Antonio Spurs traveled to Miami to face the 10-3 Miami Heat for a late November game in what was supposed to be a preview of a a possible NBA Finals matchup — they indeed met in the finals in June 2013, with the Heat winning an epic series in 7 games. The Miami Heat franchise demanded the 19,000 fans in attendance pay a higher “premium ticket price” that night for the marquee matchup, but Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had a surprise in store; an hour before tip-off, Popovich informed the NBA that 4 of their best players –Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Danny Green –would not be suiting up. They had been sent back to San Antonio, not due to injury, but simply to rest up after a long road trip.

A group of fans attending the game were not happy; they sued the Spurs claiming that fans had “suffered economic damages” due to having to pay a premium ticket price to see a Spurs team without its best players. This  ”was an unfair and deceptive practice” that constituted a violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act that prohibits “unconscionable, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” The lawsuit was eventually voluntarily dismissed, but it may have been a sign of things to come.

NBA teams now commonly equip their players with biometric tracking devices to track their players’ heath on a 24/7 basis. Players now know that every hour of sleep proves crucial for their body’s ability to recover after a grueling NBA game. These professional competitors use these devices to shape their behavior, and it has became a competition among them to make sure they are in top form at all times. Remaining in top form may sometimes mean sitting out one of the 82 games on the NBA schedule. “At times, it may be necessary for a guy to rest whether it’s on the road or it’s at home,” Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan said, “it’s a thin line.” Players such as Klay Thompson chafe at the idea of sitting out games because “fans pay their hard-earned money to see you play; the young guys like me, I don’t need to rest.” Even so he admits, “the old guys, the old superstars, they need a game or two off here and there.”

NBA players earn an average salary of $6.4 million, and they are among the highest-paid professionals on the planet. They travel on private jets from game to game, and they  stay at five-star hotels while on the road. Fans regularly play top dollar ticket prices to see these stars perform. Nevertheless, a Utah School of Medicine study found that back-to-back road games yields 3.5 times more in-game injuries than those played at home, so a “Did Not Play-Rest” classification is being employed more and more by NBA coaches to preserve their players’ health. The data showing the value of rest to peak performance, injury prevention and long-term health is now undeniable, so players are taking games off at historic levels. If this pattern continues, it is possible that we will see more lawsuits from angry sports fans similar to the 2012 lawsuit against the San Antonio Spurs.

 

 

 

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