Sportingly, the poster is superb. For the resumption of its new season, the spectacular North American basketball league, the NBA, has scheduled a duel on October 18 between the Golden State Warriors, reigning champions, and its most glamorous franchise, Los Angeles. Angeles Lakers, led by star LeBron James.
Ecologically, it is more debatable. For this glittering encounter, the Lakers players, who will play at home two days later, will travel 1,300 kilometers by plane, the return distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A case far from isolated: every year, each of the thirty franchises plays 41 regular season meetings outside, an ecological abyss on the scale of a continental country like the United States.
In 2018-2019, the NBA was, in terms of travel according to ESPN, the most polluting of the four major leagues in American sports. In an attempt to get rid of this negative image, it announced on Wednesday August 17 that it had partially reduced the travel of each team to reach its lowest total in the modern era.
Nearly 90,000 kilometers less in total
Last season, each franchise averaged 69,000 kilometres. For the 2022-2023 season, the teams will be “limited” to just over 66,000 kilometers. On the whole of the league, it is therefore about 90,000 kilometers less.
To achieve this overall drop of nearly 5%, the NBA has scheduled 88 games in particular that will not require any air travel (compared to 53 last season). Of these matches, 55 will be back-to-back, with the same teams playing each other two nights in a row. The other 33 will be games played in New York and Los Angeles, two cities that have two franchises, which allows opponents to face the two local teams during the same trip.
“There is a player health aspect, but there is also a durability aspect. [de l’environnement] »explained Evan Wasch, one of the three coordinators of the NBA schedule, revealing the new dates.
“This announcement is symbolic and political, because the plane today embodies the figurehead of the ecological fight”, tempers Benjamin Adler, president of Game Earth, the only French carbon and biodiversity contribution program entirely devoted to sport.
“The majority of a club’s carbon footprint is not the players’ air travel but the twenty thousand people who come to see a match, explains the co-founder of this program who is currently collaborating with a French NBA player. What is needed are certified zero-emission rooms, like in Seattle, served by public transport, with local food, the end of single-use plastic, etc. »
Portland, model student
Within the basketball league, the Portland Trail Blazers are model students in terms of eco-responsibility. Since 2005, the Oregon team has been stepping up its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint: recycling jerseys and surplus food, reducing water and energy costs, and even a certified eco-friendly hall. But his example is still far from being generalized.
“The NBA, which has colossal means, should release an ecological transition fund that will help the thirty franchises to carry out a meticulous carbon calculation including the footprint generated by fans, establish an action plan based on quantified reduction targets then set up a carbon contribution system”Benjamin Adler continues. “The NBA is watched by all the other American leagues. So if she sets an example today and decides to take a step on this, she will be a source of inspiration because she has this ability to be avant-garde.he judges.
But while waiting to serve as an example, the NBA has scheduled two games abroad this season: one in Mexico and above all one in Paris, as in January 2020, to establish its international influence. Because ecological awareness or not, American sport remains a spectacle and a business.