How sliding into the DMs has killed the NBA’s home-court advantage

Three decades after what George Karl described as the height of the NBA’s “drug and drinking era” — a span that claimed the careers of All-Stars past, present and future, and not by chance saw home-court advantage spike to a record high in 1987-88 — teams are performing better than ever on the road.

Why? According to Tom Haberstroh’s latest piece for ESPN The Magazine, the reason can at least in part be credited to Tinder, Instagram and other applications that give NBA players access to would-be suitors with a touch of a button on their smartphones. Rather than looking for love in all the wrong places — namely nightclubs, where the alcohol is flowing and morning draws nearer — they can slide into someone’s DMs and have a romp waiting for them at the hotel after a game, per Haberstroh:

One general manager calls it the “Tinderization of the NBA.”

“Tin-der-i-za-tion,” he repeats, “like the dating app. No need to go to the clubs all night anymore.”

Indeed, various apps have done for sex in the NBA what Amazon has done for books. One no longer needs to leave home to find a party. The party now comes to you. And lifestyle judgments aside, the NBA road life is simply more efficient — and less taxing — when there aren’t open hours spent trolling clubs.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting laid on the road today versus 15 years ago,” says one former All-Star, who adds that players actually prefer Instagram to Tinder when away from home. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”

Added benefits of the speedier rendezvous, beyond extra sleep, are less temptation to booze and fewer potentially embarrassing moments caught on social media. The first two reinforce what sports scientists have been preaching to teams — that less drinking and more sleep increase performance — and the last one is a reality NBA players from previous decades simply didn’t have to worry about.

As Haberstroh points out, there are other reasons why road teams are winning a record 43.3 percent of their games this season, as opposed to the all-time low of 32.1 percent in 1987-88. Namely, teams aren’t supplying their players with alcohol as much, they’re flying private soon after the end of games rather than commercial the following morning, and the financial reward for players — from nine-figure contracts to personal brands worth many more millions — is a greater incentive than ever before.

We’d be remiss to leave out the hard lessons left behind for this generation, from the death of Len Bias to addict-turned-mentor John Lucas, now a Houston Rockets assistant. On a less somber note, we shouldn’t be surprised that sex at one’s fingertips is an NBA luxury, although this revelation that more immediate postgame coitus results in the added benefit of a better road record is really something.

Whether there’s any correlation between this theory and the success of the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s, who reportedly made women available to players in the sauna after games, we cannot know. But what an excuse this now provides to NBA players, because the only thing more romantic than sliding into someone’s DMs is letting them know, “The faster we seal the deal, the sooner I can get to sleep.”

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