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How the NBA’s new coach’s challenge works

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

If you paid close attention to the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League, you may have noticed a new feature during the mid-summer exhibition games: the coach’s challenge. The NBA had been toying with debuting a coach’s challenge in what’s been a wider effort to “get the call right” and to offer increased transparency regarding refereeing. After some experimentation in Las Vegas in 2019 and in the G-League over its last two seasons, the NBA Board of Governors voted to approve the coach’s challenge for NBA implementation in their July 9th meeting.

Byron Spruell, the NBA’s President of League Operations, made the following comments on the rule change:

“These initiatives further strengthen our officiating program and help referees make the right call. Giving head coaches a voice will enhance the confidence in our replay process among teams and fans and add a new, exciting strategic element to our game. Enabling the NBA Replay Center to trigger instant replay will improve game flow and provide real-time awareness of any adjustments to the score.”

This replay stuff often becomes a (the sports world’s most boring) polarizing topic. On one hand, plenty of folks simply want to the refs to make the correct call. If that means retrospectively validating a call after a few doses of replay, well, duh — of course we should use the resources we have to get it right. On the other hand, game flow already feels disrupted and segmented enough with timeouts, commercial breaks, intentional fouling, and the replay reviews already in effect. Not only that, but there’s a school of thought that human error is part of the game and that calls more or less balance out over the course of a game. Whichever camp you belong to, whether you believe a coach’s challenge will improve the product, I don’t think there’s any denying that this new rule change regarding a coach’s challenge is a genuine effort by the league to enforce the rules of the game more accurately and universally.

With that said, the NBA has put together an informative 10-minute video explaining everything you need to know about the coach’s challenge: when it can be used, what can be challenged, the process behind executing the challenge, etc. Check it out and let us know what you think about the new feature in the comments.


The coach’s challenge will __________ the game.

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  • 48%
    (137 votes)
  • 28%
    (81 votes)
  • 23%
    not change
    (67 votes)
285 votes total Vote Now

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