By Jared Levy ‘23, Contributing Writer
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is evolving and thriving from the direction it’s headed. In the midst of this pandemic, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, perfectly executed a well thought-out plan for reopening that has led to plenty of action-filled basketball for fans to enjoy.
Teams arrived in Walt Disney World beginning in early July, form ing the bubble. Players were required to quarantine until their test results arrived. Scrimmages began on July 22nd, and the season officially resumed on July 30th. Since then, out of the 341 individuals tested weekly, there hasn’t been a single positive case. The NBA invited 22 of the 30 teams to the bubble, based on their chance of making the playoffs with the eight regular-season games played in Orlando.
The regular season had many exciting moments, and the playoffs have lived up to the high expectations of basketball fans. Whether it was the scorching hot Phoenix Suns who went undefeated or Damian Lillard’s extraordinary performance, NBA bubble basketball has not disappoint ed. Several records were broken; Lebron James now leads the NBA in most playoff games won, and the duel between Jamal Murray of the Den ver Nuggets and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz led to playoff scoring records to be broken.
As the bubble progressed, a few things became clear: The NBA is transitioning into a new era, the orga nization is globalizing, and the league is becoming incredibly well managed.
With the emerging stardom of players like Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, and many others, the league is transitioning into a new generation of stars. The transition isn’t complete yet, with veterans such as Lebron James and Chris Paul still winning games, but the process has started. The playoffs are a good example of this as the young Nuggets, Celtics, Heat and the small ball Rock ets have been putting up a serious fight against older teams such as the Clippers, Bucks, and Lakers. Over the course of the next few years, young players such as rookie-of-the-year Ja Morant, Tyler Herro, and Michael Porter Jr. will become stars in the league.
Along with new this wave of young stars comes international players that have taken the league by storm: reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece, former rookie of the year and all-star Luka Doncic from Slovenia, Nikola Jokic from Serbia, and Pascal Siakim from Cameroon. Year by year the league has increasing numbers of young international stars, and in the 2020 draft, Israeli Star Deni Adjiva is projected to be drafted in the top five along with three other international top 20 prospects. In the bubble, these players have been some of the best in the league, and as of September 9th, all six teams remaining in the playoffs have an international player on their roster. As seen in the bubble, the NBA is globalizing, and in the future, international players will hold a major role.
One final significant takeaway is how well Silver and his team run the NBA, and how they’ve fulfilled players’ needs in this time of rising activism and uncertainty. For years the NBA has been ahead of other
American leagues in their social activism, and players have been very vocal about their need for change in this troubled world. Every court in the bubble says “Black Lives Matter” on the hardwood, the players can wear messages such as “Freedom,” “Stand Up,” etc., and players have spoken out in interviews about social justice and equality. Instead of pushing back and restricting the players’ voices, players have been giving a platform to express themselves. By giving them a platform, Silver maintains a sense of control and unity while allowing players to express their beliefs. For ex ample, in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, teams followed the lead of the Milwaukee Bucks, and alongside the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), decided to boycott games. Regardless of whether this was a correct response, the NBA freely allowed teams to do so, which prevented a divide between the league and the players and maintained their healthy relationship. Silver flawlessly handled these situations and kept the NBA going.
Although playing in this Orlando bubble is not an ideal situation, it has allowed viewers to watch pure basketball without the roar of the crowd and the usual spectacle of a professional sports event. This has brought light to how bright the future of the NBA is and the strength of the league in the face of adversity. If there’s one takeaway from the bubble, it’s that fans have a tremendous amount to look forward to in upcoming years and the finish of this thrilling season.