The 2019-2020 NBA season will go down in history as the first-ever season to have been suspended indefinitely, despite the excitement coming from a highly-competitive and heated drive toward the playoffs. An immediate stop to the games was announced after Utah’s Rudy Gobert was found to have been infected with the corona virus disease last March 11. With the COVID 19 threat clearly casting its deadly shadow over the league, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the difficult, yet wise decision to shut down the league. Temporarily.
Since then, talks of the games’ resumption have been up in the air. When it will be resumed, and how. Everyone knows that the economic impact on the league will be enormous, with cash-strapped teams feeling the pinch, hence the need to get back to normal the soonest possible time. But with the pandemic figures seemingly still on the rise in many parts of the country, there is little reason to assume that a resumption of hostilities is forthcoming.
Thus, the NBA has been building on different possible scenarios to save the league from what could be the biggest financial challenge it has ever encountered in its history.
Will the NBA still be able to resume the 2019-20 season at some point? If so, will fans be allowed to watch the games? Will the rest of the season be cancelled, with the eastern and western conferences’ current top 8 teams moving into the playoffs? Or will they allow for mini-showdowns for the 7th to 8th spots? How will the playoffs be played? Will we see an abbreviated playoffs? Will they be played in a single venue, 2 venues, or will the home-and-away scheme remain in place? What new protocols will be set up to ensure that all players, officials and staff will remain safe and secure? Obviously, there will be no end-all solution to address the lost revenues the teams are bound to absorb. But the league will need to push some creative solutions on the table as it tries to resume business, and reduce the effects of this cataclysmic crisis.
The season had started with so much excitement. So much to look forward to. There was the realignment of stars that created new superteams. New alliances were born, the biggest of which were the dynamic duos of Lebron James and Anthony Davis for the LA Lakers, the Kawhi Leonard – Paul George team-up for an already souped -up LA Clippers, the James Harden and Russell Westbrook MVP mix in Houston, and a dangerous Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant tandem in New Jersey. These new alliances were expected to spice up an already super-exciting league this year.
There too were the telltale signs of the end of an era. The great team that was the Golden State Warriors, perennial finalists for all of 5 consecutive years, were suddenly showing signs of vulnerability. With the injury sidelining Klay Thompson; the departure of 2-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant; plus the release of former stalwarts Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins; and then the early exit of Steph Curry to another injury; the Warriors seemed hopeless for the year.
And then, there’s the continuing development of the game, with more emphasis on the 3-point artillery attack; eventually leading to the use of new defensive systems. These would lead to the birth of hybrid positions, before the introduction of the concept of ‘positionless ball’. Exciting times indeed as we witnessed the fascinating evolution of basketball. The action carried over to the All-Star weekend, where we saw the most exciting game finish ever in years. Indeed, these were some heady times with great new storylines and great new rivalries, had the season taken its normal course.
But then, disaster struck. And with just a blink of an eye, the NBA season stopped altogether.
Undoubtedly, the league suspension will cost millions of dollars in lost revenues. It will result to lost jobs, and create further anxieties. And it will take a year or 2 for the league – with its ancillary businesses – to recover. But the NBA did the wise thing, leading the sports world in making the tough decision of sacrificing revenues for the health and safety – not only of the players – but of all the communities it served.
The shutdown caused the season to close without a rightful conclusion and celebration. There will be no hoisting the trophy, no ticker tape parades, no championship rings to award the winners, as of now. The lights went off without a clear answer as to who will be crowned the new Champion, the new MVP. The 2020 season was supposed to be one of clear vision. Alas, it has turned out to be blurry and chaotic. Clearly, the 2020 NBA season has remained an unfinished business.
Cover photo courtesy of Bleacher Report. Other photos courtesy of Clutch Points, NBA.com, CBS Sports, Boston Herald, Five Thirty Eight, Elite Sports NY, Silver Screen and Roll.