The 2019-20 NBA season has without a doubt been extraordinary due to the circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league was suspended after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus in March, triggering a four-month hiatus.
After weighing options on how to resume the season, the NBA decided on having 22 teams report to a bubble at Walt Disney World. The NBA and Players Association put in an incredible amount of effort to make sure games can safely resume in Orlando, receiving praise from fans and sports experts.
However, many wondered whether the NBA title won at the end of the bubble experiment in October will carry the same significance due to the disturbance the pandemic has caused this season. Players had just three weeks to regain form due to disruptions to their training schedules and a lack of access to practice facilities.
Some of them decided to opt out of the NBA restart, including Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza. Then there’s the mental toll the bubble has taken on some.
But Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who has been with the team since they entered the bubble, said the extraordinary circumstances will not diminish the achievement of those who come out of the Orlando bubble victorious, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We have a saying here: whoever comes away with this, it’s not an asterisk. It’s a gold star. That’s how we see it. The team that comes out of the bubble with the trophy, what that team is going to have to endure to reach that finish line, history has not seen. So, yes, anything but an asterisk. It’s a gold star. That’s the way we look at it.”
Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke of the issue in a similar manner in July. He said this season’s title would be “the toughest championship you could ever win.”
Anthony Davis also described the bubble as being more of a mental than physical challenge for teams. The Lakers have navigated it all and now are two wins from capturing the franchise’s 17th title.
James called NBA restart is a ‘huge sacrifice’
Many Lakers said before heading to the bubble that the experiment would be an experience unlike any other, challenging their mental health as much as their bodies. And LeBron James, who is no stranger to long NBA road trips and month-long Olympic duties, reiterated being away from his family for so long has been extremely difficult.
“It’s a huge sacrifice we’re all making,” James said. “I miss the hell out of my family, my wife, my kids, my mother, and so on. It’s a huge challenge to be able to stay locked in.”
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