On March 11, it seemed unlikely the NBA would be able to finish the season as it shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic began.
After having played many games in a season that began in late October, the NBA season suddenly came to a screeching halt when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. The season seemed doomed and the postseason seemed a distant thought that wasn’t going to happen at all.
Why the Sudden Change?
Why did the NBA have to stop the entire season right away? Couldn’t some teams have continued to play? At the time of the shutdown, scientists in the US didn’t know enough about COVID-19 and fear was increasing as a response to how the virus was spreading in Italy and other countries. A quick contact tracing study showed that Gobert had some form of contact with all thirty teams in the NBA over the previous two weeks, causing an immediate panic.
Enter; The Bubble
The NBA is one of the most progressive of professional sports leagues and one of the most dynamic as well. Because of this, the league and the players worked together to create the NBA Bubble in Orlando at Disney World. This bubble was created to allow the league to finish the season and eventually have a champion crowned. There weren’t any guarantees it would work, but the NBA leadership listened and implemented safety protocols as directed by medical experts.
The NBA Bubble Worked Perfectly
Even though no fans were allowed in the NBA Bubble and most players were isolated from their families for several months, the bubble worked. There weren’t any positive COVID-19 cases reported from the start of playing the final regular-season games through the playoffs. This created a safe and confident environment the players could feel comfortable in during the final games.
From Sixteen to One; An NBA Champion was Crowned
A 2020 NBA Champion was crowned on Sunday, October 11, to complete a season that took nearly twelve months. The champions of the NBA are the Los Angeles Lakers. The crowning of this team does more than simply bring a positive finish to a season where negative test results were the desired result; it brings several historic marks to the Lakers organization that had slipped through their grasp for many years.
The Lakers Finally Matched the Celtics
Not as much an obscure statistic, but one that the Los Angeles Lakers have been longing for during the past ten years, the 2020 NBA Championship allows the Lakers to be tied with the Boston Celtics for the most championships by one team in NBA history. This is a mark that’s eluded the Lakers for the past ten years, since their last championship, which feels like an eternal drought by many of the Laker faithful fans.
High Marks for LeBron James
The most popular and recognizable NBA player in the world is LeBron James. LeBron had been the gold standard of basketball for the past 17 years and it seems he isn’t ready to slow down. Winning the championship with the Lakers marks the fourth crown for James. It also marks the fourth time he has won the NBA Finals MVP, which puts him in rare company with Michael Jordan, who he is often compared to.
In addition to joining Jordan with four championships and four Finals MVP awards, LeBron James is now the only player in NBA history to win three titles and Finals MVP awards with three different teams. While overlooked for the regular season MVP award, LeBron James was easily the MVP of the NBA Finals and likely the best player in the playoffs.
The Lakers were Dominant
It seemed the Los Angeles Lakers were destined to become champions this year. Not only did they have what was considered one of the best three teams in the league, but the path also seemed to get easier at every step in the playoffs. The Lakers rolled through the Western Conference, never dropping more than one game in each of the seven-game series. When faced with the Miami Heat in the Finals, the Lakers only lost two out of six games to emerge victoriously.
Success in the NBA Could Serve as an Example for Others
While the NBA has the unique position of having teams with small player rosters (a maximum of 15), the success of the NBA Bubble could serve as an example for other leagues. The NBA found a way to successfully finish their season and crown the Los Angeles Lakers as champions when nothing of the sort seemed possible on that fateful day in March when the league was shut down.