How Successful was the NBA during Covid-19 Pandemic

The NBA Bubble

Photo Courtesy of Chensiyuan

Photo Courtesy of Chensiyuan

Anshul Sreenivas

In March 2020, the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were lacing up their shoes to go play a game of basketball. All the fans in the stadium had just settled in their seats, with popcorn and beverages ready to watch the game. But right before the game started, the referees huddled up and started talking to each other,  all the fans feeling curious because they didn’t know what was going on. The chatter started and “BEEP!” the buzzer sounded. The refs announced that the game was postponed and everyone had to exit from the stadium. Whispers of speculation could be heard as everyone was leaving the arena, the tensions were high, the money was lost, and everyone was wondering “what in the world was going on?”

The next morning NBA fans woke up to many news articles on how the NBA had its first ever Covid-19 case. Rudy Gobert, the French basketball player for the Utah Jazz, had tested positive. Suddenly everyone was frightened about what precautions were going to take place. A few days later, the NBA officially announced that the rest of the 2020 NBA season was going to be cancelled, and it was unknown when it would be resumed. 

On June 30, 2020, the NBA announced they would be resuming the season in about a month. The question was, “how is this season going to work.” The NBA had an amazing answer to that question. They had opened up a bubble in Orlando, where a whole city was going to be locked out and open just for NBA players. It would be the teams that qualified to go to the bubble in Orlando, that would be eligible to stay in the bubble. But the problem here was that the players and coaching staff would not be able to see their families, due to the precautions taken by the NBA that said no one besides players, coaches, refs, or commentators were allowed in the bubble, which indirectly means no fans. The NBA was going to take a big hit with this move, since no fans means that money will be lost, and the atmosphere would not be the same. 

The season ended up starting on July 26, 2020, with all teams safe from Covid-19. Since no one was allowed to leave the bubble, there was a very low chance of anyone actually catching a case. The games had been going great, not a single case of Covid-19, and no one breaking the rules. But then NBA players started a protest, they felt that the Black Lives Matter movement was getting enough attention. So they went on strike, they wanted to cancel the rest of the season and not play due to the heartbreak this had caused everyone. But the NBA had a response, no one is allowed to just end and stop the season like that so they came up with an alternative: if NBA players didn’t continue playing their salaries would be cut by 50 percent. Now the NBA didn’t do this on purpose, they were losing money due to no fans, and if players stopped playing, it would be no viewership, and that is another cause to lose more money. The NBA had no choice but to put out that statement. 

The players agreed and decided to play on while wearing important quotes stemming from the Black Lives Matter movement on the back of their jerseys. The season continued on, with a good playoffs. The NBA finals this year, however, was the lowest viewership in NBA finals history, with most people deciding to watch other sports, as baseball, and football was also going on. 

Now the NBA did have many down moments in this bubble experience, but if you ask me, they did spectacular. They had zero Covid-19 cases in the entire 3 months of the bubble, and they were able to crown an NBA champion. The NFL going on right now is getting cases left and right, so the NBA pulling this off is quite the challenge. Despite the money lost from the NBA, this action proved to the world that this organization is truly something special and can pull anything off.