Surprisingly the NBA bubble has been one of the most successful things to happen in 2020. When the conversation first sparked a couple of months ago about the NBA playing in Orlando a lot of people were on the fence about it, including me. My original thoughts were how could the NBA consider playing in a time like this? With the world facing two global pandemics, being COVID-19, and racial oppression/ police brutality how could we think about basketball? With the attention finally on the mistreatment of black people in America and the protest all over the world my biggest fear was that the NBA would come back and take the attention away from something so important. With the majority of sports on a halt, people were in an uncomfortable state and they were finally starting to listen to the issues of people who they usually ignore, with the NBA coming back this could easily be a distraction and many players felt like this as well. Most notably Kyrie Irving stated that he and other players are “looking to take a stand by not playing in the league’s intended resumption, and their primary reason for doing so would be in support of the nationwide movement fighting for social justice reform.” Many players also had safety concerns seeing that Florida has such a high rate of Corona virus cases how would the league keep them safe?
Regardless of uncertainty from players and fans, the NBA was back like never before. The league managed to create a safe place to continue the season while accommodating the players as much as possible. The league provides daily COVID-19 tests to all players and staff, they provide and expect players to wear masks as much as possible and makes players quarantine for 10-14 days after their return back to the bubble. This method has been very successful with zero positive tests throughout August.
Another win for the NBA would be how surprisingly entertaining the bubble has been and I’m not talking about the basketball part. Fans including myself have been intrigued about the bubble process and how some of our favorite players are living. Many social media teams have taken advantage of this, for example, the Milwaukee Bucks have created a whole youtube series about life in the bubble and rookie Matisse Thybulle from the Philadelphia 76ers has become a youtube sensation with his all-access vlogs showing everything from corona testing to cornhole competitions with the team. Oddly enough this bubble experience has brought fans closer to players than any courtside seat could.
My favorite part of this entire bubble experience would have to be the efforts to support black lives matter and speak out about the racial discrimination and police brutality occurring in this country today. I think it is great that the NBA has allowed players to display messages on their jersey such as “black lives matter”, “I can’t breathe”, “Respect us”, “Vote” and many more powerful quotes. What I enjoy even more are the after game interviews where players get the chance to speak out about these issues, with 74.4% of the NBA league being African American this is not just a hashtag or a trend these are issues that these men deal with daily. Many NBA players refused to answer questions during press conferences and only made comments about arresting the police that murdered Breonna Taylor on March 13th. Most recently players have spoken out about the killing of another unarmed black man Jacob Blake who was shot from behind seven times. Lebron James, Jaylen Brown, and Fred VanVleet all used their press conferences to discuss this senseless murder. Coach Doc Rivers also gave an emotional press conference after the Clippers and Maverick game five. Coach Rivers made some powerful points about how African Americans are the ones living in fear and how we keep loving a country that does not love us back. These types of interviews are what the world needs to see right now, not Paul George slander or MVP discussions. We need to continue to make people uncomfortable and keep the conversation of police brutality alive.
In Fred VanVleet’s press conference he said something that grabbed my attention “Coming down here and making the choice to play was supposed to not be in vain but it’s just starting to feel like everything we’re doing is just going through the motions and nothing really changing.” My biggest wish from this whole bubble experience is for those who do not understand “Black Lives Matter” or the protests that are going around to at least listen to their favorite athletes talk about the everyday struggles of being a black person in America. I hope that people can take these interviews and outspoken actions from these athletes and learn to view them as humans first.
Kayla is the Assistant Sports director for The Wolf Sports, as well as a co-host on Urban Kulture you can follow the show on twitter @urbankultureuwg