NBA Bubble Recap: the incredible accomplishment that made history

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Los Angeles Times

The NBA Bubble goes a whole season with no COVID-19 cases while still fighting social injustices, making history for the association.

Mack Kepner, Staff Writer

It has been over six months since the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz walked off the basketball court. Since the fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena headed for the exits before the game had even begun. 

Since that surreal night, where the NBA suspended its season indefinitely, the NBA was able to devise and successfully carry out a plan to finish their season that began on July 31st. They created a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, with the top 22 teams based on win percentage. They reserved three hotels at Disney World, where the players were to quarantine and stay in for three months. The teams would play eight games counting towards their record for the regular season, and then the top 8 teams in each conference would participate in a standard formatted playoff. 

In this bubble, the players were tested daily for COVID-19 and were restricted to the Disney campus’s confines. These luxurious hotels offered countless activities for the players to do for fun when they weren’t on the court. They could take a swim in the pool, go fishing with teammates, and play a few holes of golf in addition to everything else. 

Unfortunately, this opportunity made many give up an immense sacrifice. No family or friends were allowed inside this bubble. Nearing the end, though, it was adapted, so families were allowed to join to watch the last two playoff rounds, but they were not allowed on campus grounds. 

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life in the bubble: nba championship vlog 🏆🏀 https://t.co/DiZCbh4xwd pic.twitter.com/Kqz7iR5Oa3

Regarding the actual teams and games, a few prominent players decided to sit out the NBA’s return, most notably, Brooklyn Nets’ guard, Kyrie Irving, refrained from joining the bubble. 

Some sat out for COVID-19 concerns, but others sat out to remain focused on social injustice movements. The protests for the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and social injustices, in general, didn’t stop, so players found it disrespectful to play instead of taking an active position on what they believed to be significant at the time. Even though many sat out, the players who decided to remain in the bubble have done a great job raising awareness for these causes despite being in lockdown.

Some steps players have taken to address the situation are kneeling in solidarity during the National Anthem, painting the phrase “Black Lives Matter” across every court, and choosing from a list of social injustice messages to wear on the back of their jerseys. Additionally, after the shooting of Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their game against the Orlando Magic. The next day was followed by a league-wide boycott of all NBA games. The NBA and NBA Players Association have done a phenomenal job of raising awareness for social injustice, despite being in a bubble. According to SBNation, the players felt that using their platforms to speak on these subjects was very important.

“The NBA players said they wanted to use their platform to influence social justice before heading to the bubble, and now they are doing it. This is a day that will go down in history,” O’Donnell wrote.

The first eight games for each team in the bubble were to finish the regular season and determine playoff seeding. In the east, there was no change in the top 8 teams. When the season was suspended, the top eight teams were the eight teams that went to the playoffs in the same order. 

On the other side, the west was a much closer race. The Phoenix Suns came into the bubble with a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs, according to AZCentral. Despite all odds, they played fantastic team basketball and didn’t lose a single game in the bubble. They did, however, miss out on the playoffs by half a game. 

The Portland Trailblazers was the team in the west that was able to slide into the eighth spot. The way the season ended, they were forced to face the Memphis Grizzlies in a play-in game. Behind bubble MVP, Damian Lillard, the Blazers were able to oust Memphis and earned a spot in the playoffs. 

In the first round of the Eastern Conference, playoffs were not very exciting. The results were all chalk as the top 4 seeded teams–Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, and Heat defeated the bottom four seeded teams–Pacers, 76ers, Nets, and Magic in 5 games or less in the seven-game series. 

However, the second round provided very competitive battles. The number 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks fell short to the 4 seed Miami Heat. Miami came out hot and had a quick 3-0 lead. League MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, led the Bucks to a game 4 victory, but Miami finished the upset in game 5. The number 2 seed Toronto Raptors and the number 3 seed Boston Celtics went to a game 7. This series was back and forth the whole way through, but the Celtics wing players ended up being too much for the defending champions to handle as the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. There, the Miami Heat were able to defeat the Celtics in 6 games behind certified star Jimmy Butler and the winner of the most improved player award in Bam Adebayo. Additionally, rookie sharpshooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were lights out from deep to help lead Miami out of the east. 

In the west, the 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers could halt Damien Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. The 2 seed Los Angeles Clippers emerged victorious against the Dallas Mavericks despite a buzzer-beating step-back three-pointer from Luka Doncic to win game 4 and tie the series at 2 apiece. The 6 seed Denver Nuggets were able to overcome a 3-1 deficit to upset the Utah Jazz

The Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder series was the 2nd matchup to go 7 games in the first round. However, the small ball and three-point shooting barrage of the Houston Rockets stopped what would’ve been sweet revenge for former Rocket Chris Paul. However, the Rockets’ trip to Orlando came to an end the next round when Lebron led the Lakers to victory in 5 games. The much anticipated “Battle of LA” did not come into fruition as the Denver Nuggets came back from 3-1 again to defeat the 2 seed LA Clippers. The Nuggets could not complete this comeback for the third time as the Lakers advanced to the Finals with a 5 game series win over Denver.

In the NBA Finals, the dominating duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis proved too much for Miami to handle as the Lakers came out to a quick 2-0 series lead. The Heat suffered injuries to two of their starters, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, in game 1, which kept both of them out for games 2 and 3. However, in game 3, the Heat rallied behind free-agent signee Jimmy Butler, who scored an outstanding 40 points to carry Miami to victory. The Lakers bounced back in game 4 to go up 3-1. The next game was a great duel between Butler and James, a back and forth battle throughout. Butler had a 35 point triple-double, while LeBron scored 40 in a valiant attempt to close out the season. In the end, Butler’s 35 (including 8 points in the final 2 minutes) proved too much for LA as the Heat forced a game 6. In game 6, the Lakers dominated from the jump and won their 17th NBA title. LeBron James won Finals MVP and became the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP for three different franchises.

The Los Angeles Lakers become NBA Champions for the first time since the 2009-10 season. (Bleacher Report)

Overall, the NBA Bubble was a huge success. In 3 months, the NBA achieved what many people thought would be impossible. They played 172 basketball games and didn’t have a single COVID-19 case. Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, deserves incredible praise for making this possible. Other sports organizations, such as MLB and NFL, are carrying out their seasons, but both have had multiple COVID-19 cases.

The NBA successfully kept its players, coaches, and employees safe while finishing out their season. They were able to raise awareness for social injustice and crown an NBA Champion. The NBA’s MVP award may have gone to Giannis Antetokounmpo, but some may think the real MVP was Adam Silver for safely provide basketball to fans in these unprecedented times.