The Return of the NBA Amidst the Pandemic
BY: Sakib Tariq
Many moons ago, the Utah Jazz visited Oklahoma City to take part in a regular-season game against the Thunder. Despite the imminent threat of the virus, most fans expected that game to be played for forty-eight minutes with the intensity and vigor that usually accompanies NBA games. But the universe did not pass up on a chance to shock its inhabitants. Shortly before tip-off, both teams returned to their respective locker rooms, and a press release informing the public about a suspension to the NBA season was released because a player tested positive for COVID-19.
While the NBA was the first of the prominent North American sports leagues to suspend their season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, they certainly were not the last. All of the major North American sports leagues announced a moratorium on league play in response to the NBA’s decision.
Many claim that no news is always good news, but that is simply not the case for basketball fans amidst the 65 days that have passed since NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the season. Players, coaches, executives, and hundreds of millions of fans are sharing the same experience of frustration without the entertainment that comes from the world of play. It’s reruns of hardwood classics and documentaries like The Last Dance that have acted as a band-aid for basketball fans worldwide, but one can only find solace in them for so long.
Fortunately for fans, they may not have to wait much longer for the NBA season to resume. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA commissioner has told the Board of Governors that an upcoming decision regarding the return of the season campaign will be announced in two to four weeks.
Even though the league is considering a return, it is quite clear that the season will not be the same.
Only essential personnel will be allowed in arenas, and the league is not planning on having teams travel from city to city. Instead, a campus-like environment strictly for NBA members will be the new normal until the vaccine is ready and available. Among the locations that are likely to host the rest of the season are Orlando and Las Vegas. The commissioner has announced that all players and staff will be tested, and those infected with the virus will be forced to self-isolate, and refrain from playing.
On paper, the plan seems superb.
Nevertheless, many athletes are still concerned that returning to work will increase the risk of being infected by tenfold. Perennial all-stars Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving have already expressed complaints geared toward the pressure of leaving their loved ones and risking their health for practice sessions and lifting weights.
In a world where a Coronavirus vaccine does not seem to be on the horizon, the question of whether a rebooted NBA season is worth the risk will remain, regardless of whether health officials clear a host city or not.