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NBA - A Whole New Game

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

COVID-19 has impacted the world in numerous ways, however on March 12, 2020, it altered the lives of basketball fans worldwide as the NBA halted gameplay until further notice. This day will go down in history as a ‘where were you when you heard the news type of moment’ as this has never happened in the 74 years of the league. After 140 days of anticipation, the sport of basketball will resume at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The NBA is coming back but with various new aspects transforming it into a whole new game.

With the league being on hold, the NBA took several months to develop a format of return to creating an environment for basketball to continue while prioritizing everyone’s safety. According to the NBA, the established format of return includes 22 teams that are participating in eight seeding games each to establish the top 16 teams (8 in each conference) to begin the playoffs. The playoffs will proceed in the traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. They have projected the NBA Finals would not end later than October 12, 2020. Other aspects included in the format of return is the absence of fans in venues as well as no home-court advantage for teams. This is completely new territory for the NBA as traditionally teams play in various locations with passionate fans giving one team the advantage. According to Bleacher Report, out of the four major American sports, home-court advantage is most meaningful to NBA teams as home teams win around 60% of their regular-season games in their own arenas. This whole new game truly places everyone on a level playing field as this will be the first finals played with no home-court advantage.

A very unique aspect of the NBA’s return is the ‘bubble’ they have created and will be reinforcing. The remainder of the season will play out at the 220-acre complex at Disney that includes three arenas along with three nearby hotels that will be hosting NBA personnel. According to CBS Sports, for the rest of the season, the Grand Destino hotel will be hosting the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers, Celtics, Nuggets, and Heat. The Grand Floridian will be hosting the Thunder, 76ers, Rockets, Pacers, Mavericks, Nets, Grizzlies, and Magic. While the Blazers, Kings, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards will be staying at the Disney Yacht Club. 

As players, staff and media are expected to remain inside the bubble until October 2020 at the latest, many players have differing views on the bubble. NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, sees it as a positive experience according to Sports Casting as he said, “This is something special. Hopefully, this pandemic never happens again so we never are able to come back to the campus, but at the end of the day, this is part of history, so just being able to be here, participate in this, I’m just trying to be in the moment, trying to enjoy every moment, trying to enjoy basketball. I’m happy that we’re back playing basketball, something that I love doing, so there’s nothing really to complain about.” Other players have shared different experiences such as Ben Simmons celebrating his 24th birthday inside the bubble with a Mickey Mouse shaped cake, according to CNBC. NBA personnel are trying to find their own ways to appreciate the league’s whole new game.

The major concern with the return of the NBA is the safety of players, coaches, and all NBA personnel during this global pandemic. With everyone inside the bubble having no access to the outside world it allows them to remove the possibility of COVID-19 in the bubble. According to CBS Sports, everyone in the bubble is tested each night and receives the results the following morning. If someone were to test positive for the virus they must quarantine away from the group for two weeks until healthy.

The lead up to the official restart of the NBA has included fan anticipation and team preparation. The 22 team’s practices have been continuous with workouts at various times across seven facilities spanning over 13 and a half hours, according to NBC Sports. All teams played three scrimmages during the week prior to the official restart on July 30.

The NBA’s whole new game is not only about playing in a global pandemic but also sheds light on a universal issue. The league is using its platform to call attention to social justice, racial equality, and police brutality. Many players considered skipping the remainder of the season to shed focus on these social justice issues. ESPN reported that the NBA and NBPA agreed to paint Black Lives Matter on the inside of both sidelines in all arenas as well as give players the opportunity to wear uniforms with personalized messages on the back of their jersey linked to these social justice issues in place of their last name. Some teams have decided to take it one step further by making their own adjustments. For example, when the Toronto Raptors arrived in Orlando, the bus they drove around in had ‘Black Lives Matter’ written across it to raise awareness about the need for social justice. The NBA's whole new game is trying to positively impact the world and make a difference.

For nearly three-quarters of a century there has been an NBA championship and this year they will crown an NBA champion despite the untraditional resumption of the season. Starting July 30, the NBA’s restart can be followed on various channels such as ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV. Although who will win the 2020 NBA championship still remains unknown, it is certain that we are watching history unfold and a whole new game. 

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