2020 NBA Bubble Success
Seth Bogoslofski, Staff Writer
When Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert first tested positive for COVID-19 mid-game, the NBA season immediately entered a hiatus. The world had just begun to begin a spiral of shutdowns and climbing infection rates that would mark the beginning of a nationwide battle against the pandemic. While the 2020 NBA Bubble lay precedent in their ability to record 0 COVID-19 cases over the course of a 3-month span, teams within the bubble were not allowed to leave the facility. From July to October, the 22 NBA-teams selected to participate in the bubble would be completely locked out from the rest of the world. Both players and coaches would be required to remain in the bubble, while playing in front of no live fans.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not require players to attend the bubble, and instead commented that he understood how hard the experience would be both mentally and physically for players and coaches. “Silver reiterated that stance on Monday, saying that playing in this bubble ‘may not be for everyone’ and ‘will entail enormous sacrifice’” (fansided.com). Not punishing players on attendance would allow those with medical conditions or at risk family members would be able to provide the assistance needed. The players would be living in Walt Disney World hotels, while enjoying all the accommodations. It is interesting to see that some players still referred to the bubble as a prison despite having the luxury of living at an amusement park for 3 months. The players and coaches would be living luxurious during the tenure of time where most Americans would be stuck in their houses. The rigors of the condensed season definitely added stress to player workload, setting each team up with challenging schedules.
The bubble playoffs featured the standard 8-seed conferences bracket, resulting in 6 teams having their seasons be ended after the conclusion of the regular season. Despite the gym conditions, the NBA playoffs were still played at an extremely high level. The series each were unique in their own way as teams like the Denver Nuggets stormed their way through the Los Angeles Clippers who were projected to go to the Finals. Led by Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. On the Eastern Side of the board, the favored Milwaukee Bucks were dropped by the Miami Heat in route to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics, who began their run as the five seed, also made it to the Eastern Conference Finals by knocking off the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors. The level of play in the bubble was top-notch as players understood the difficulty of the situation at hand. If a team could successfully battle COVID while winning a title, they will be remembered in history for their achievement.
The NBA Finals was an important testament to the history of the league. After such a competitive condensed season, players were eager to put everything on the line for a chance to win the title. The Los Angeles Lakers led by Lebron James and Anthony Davis had been favored to win the title since the beginning of the season. With the neighboring Los Angeles Clippers team not being able to live up to their hype, the Lakers were in the perfect position to rewrite history. Winning the first Los Angeles NBA title since 2009 was a remarkable feat, especially following the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. The Lakers played the Miami Heat led by Jimmy Butler, in a six-game series decided by the offensive firepower of the Lakers combined with a depleted injury-ridden Heat roster. James took home the title of NBA Finals MVP, playing great defense while facilitating on offense through the entire bubble season. His experience combined with the talent of his supporting teammates will give the Lakers another high probable chance of returning to the Finals this season.
The challenges faced in the NBA Bubble were experienced by players and coaches, as well as the fans. The season did not feel the same, as stadiums stood empty, typically packed to the brim with ecstatic fans. Despite the given conditions, the players and association itself should be proud of what they accomplished given the cards dealt. In a time where many people felt as if their days were stuck in a repeating cycle, having a sport to watch was definitely a blessing. The resilience of the league must be credited with the 2020 NBA Bubble’s success, and it will be more than interesting to see what the league has in store for the remainder of the current 2021 season.