Of all the pro sports leagues, the NBA took the hardest hit in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the MLB and NFL, which were both still in the offseason, the NBA had to suspend play for several months. Ultimately, of course, the league produced a virtually flawless comeback within the confines of the Orlando bubble.
Meanwhile, the MLB and NFL both fought uphill battles against COVID-19, often being forced to cancel games and quarantine entire teams. Now the NBA is about to start its 2020-21 season — this time without the security of a quarantine bubble. Let’s look at the struggles faced by the NFL and how the upcoming NBA season could turn out just as bad.
The pandemic’s effect on the NFL
Even before the season started, the coronavirus pandemic had already severely impacted the NFL. It limited players’ training programs during the offseason and leaving them at an increased risk of injury. Once games began, the league instituted a strict set of rules for players. Nonetheless, the virus quickly reared its head.
Within the first month of the season, there was an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans team. As the situation spread to other teams, the league had to begin postponing scheduled games. At least one match between the Steelers and Ravens was postponed three times due to COVID-19, as CNBC reports.
Later in November, the Denver Broncos saw all four of their quarterbacks sidelined with COVID-19. In a move almost too ridiculous to believe, the Broncos had to use a back-up wide receiver as their quarterback in a game against the New Orleans Saints, details The Guardian. Simply put, the entire season has been marked by chaos.
The NBA’s successful summer in the bubble
Before we delve into how COVID-19 may wreak havoc on the 2020-21 NBA season, it’s important to acknowledge what an incredible job the league did in the Orlando bubble. At the time, commissioner Adam Silver and others were quick to admit that they had no idea whether the bubble would work. As ESPN reports, Silver conceded that a rash of cases might cause the league to cancel the season a second time.
In the end, the NBA managed to complete the rest of the regular season and the playoffs without a single player testing positive for the coronavirus. While it was strange to see games being played without fans in the stands, the consensus among players, fans, and the media was that the bubble was a rousing success.
Why the 2020-21 NBA season could be as bad as the NFL’s
Now that we’ve got warm fuzzies out of the way, it’s time to take a cold hard look at reality. There is almost no chance that the NBA is going to get through its season without any positive COVID-19 tests. On the contrary, there are probably going to be lots of them. In fact, there already have been. Between November 24-30, 48 out of 546 NBA players tested positive, as CBS Sports reports.
The expectation is that those numbers are going to balloon once teams start traveling from city to city. As a result, fans can expect to see backup players– and even G League recruits — logging significant time this season. Depending on how things play out, the virus could also upend predictions regarding title favorites.
According to CBS Sports, front office executives around the league have all adopted a similar attitude to the coronavirus this season: “People are going to get it, it could be bad, just hope for the best and get through it.” Yet things start to look pretty bad when you consider that the NBA has almost four times more games than the NFL. If COVID-19 gets out of hand, it may prove impossible to postpone and rearrange the entire season.