2020 has been a year for the history books. As COVID-19 has had its effects felt worldwide, the sports world has been forced to undergo unprecedented change and seize activity for what has felt like too many fans as an eternity. Nevertheless, as many professional sports rear back up for their highly anticipated returns, one storyline particularly has been circulating around the NBA’s bubble return in Orlando; should there be an asterisk placed upon this year's NBA Finals championship?
Sports analysts and past NBA players have started much of this asterisk speculation during the hiatus. With the season in Orlando resuming and not being played in its entirety, many believe this season and title should not hold as much weight as years past. Also playing a major factor in this discussion is the format of the season’s resumption. We have never quite seen anything like the bubble that the NBA has set up in Orlando. The bubble is set up to ensure the safest return possible to bring back the sport we all desperately have been waiting to come back.
But why should there be an asterisk next to this year’s title? I do not understand the fuss and am not buying the asterisk discussion and here is why:
This year’s title is going to be harder than ever to win, both mentally and physically. The rules of the bubble are to ensure everyone’s safety and drastically limit what the players are able to do. No nightlife, no freedom, and no leaving the bubble’s parameters. Players will be confined to the bounds of the Orlando campus barring unforeseen circumstances (i.e. family emergency). A major downfall of the bubble also includes players not being able to freely see their families, which for most they will have to endure the longest period of their lives without seeing their loved ones back home. Not to mention these players have also endured the longest period of their lives without playing organized basketball. Many players have stayed in tip-top shape, even many lost handfuls of pounds (Jokic and Harden to name a few). However, expect many to struggle physically when play resumes. With only approximately three weeks of training camp after almost four months off, getting back into game speed will present an uphill battle for many players.
This leave of absence has however helped many players individually and many teams chances going forward. Many players have voiced that this break in the action has helped them get back to 100% and feeling better than they have all season. It also is important to note that almost every team that has a legitimate chance of contending for the title this year is at full strength roster wise. Barring any injuries upon return, once these teams get back in a groove, they will be firing on all cylinders and we the fans should be in for a treat with some great playoff basketball.
In addition, with the teams all playing at the Orlando Campus there will be no homecourt advantage. For the Bucks and Lakers who are sitting atop their respective conferences, this ruins their chances of what the main goal of regular season basketball is, to secure homecourt for a deep playoff push. The Bucks before the hiatus boasted a home record of 28-3, the second-best home record in all of basketball. The Lakers on the other hand are actually statistically better when playing on the road this season, with a 26-6 record (best in NBA). This could play to the Lakers' advantage. But for example, if the 76ers were able to use these eight seedings games to move up to the fourth spot in the East (2 GB of Heat) and secure homecourt for at least the first round this could be troublesome for them if homecourt were still intact. The 76ers were unworldly at home this season posting a near-perfect 29-2 record, while it was a completely different story on the road finishing just 10-24. The lack of homecourt advantage for the 76ers this postseason could be a major issue for them.
Not to mention, not only will there be no homecourt advantage there will also be no fans in attendance at these games. Most of the NBA's biggest stars have not played a game since potentially middle school with less than at least hundreds of fans in attendance. It will be a big adjustment in crucial moments of the game to see how the players adjust to the lack of fan support or on the other spectrum fan distraction. This should play into the veterans/collected players favors the best.
The asterisk talk to me is laughable and erroneous. All players and teams have had to face the same leaps and hurdles that the COVID situation has caused the NBA restart plan. No team or individual has been blessed with the opportunity of avoiding this unprecedented time we are living every day. In my opinion, this year’s title should have no asterisk and if it does the asterisk should represent a harder and better-deserved NBA title than any title in the past. We have never witnessed anything quite like this and hopefully never will again. The 2020 NBA Champs will have had such a long, uphill battle facing adversity every step of the way like never before and will be the most deserving of all the praise they will receive.