Is Basketball Worth it? An Analysis of the NBA’s Handling of COVID-19

by Komala Anupindi

What you can do

  1. Contact your local representative about protocols to minimize the spread of COVID in your area.  
  2. Stay home.

Professional sports teams have been a staple of America for more than one hundred years. With the rise of baseball in the 1830s, the rise of football in the early 1900s, and basketball in the late 1800s, sports have consistently been something Americans can rely on for years. 

However, during the past year, sports have transformed from their consistent reliability to be just as everything else is during a pandemic: uncertain. Specifically, the NBA has learned to adjust to a world in which its mere existence and continuance threatens to put players, staff, and families at risk. 

For the NBA, it has undoubtedly been the most successful league in the past year to resume sports with COVID. When the NBA suspended the 2019-2020 season on March 11th, for many Americans, it struck that COVID-19 was going to alter daily life. In the swing of a season, if the NBA could suspend the league and leave superstars such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard stranded, what would daily life transform into? [1] The constant absence of daily NBA games and Steph Curry’s always reliable 3-pointers simply served as a reminder that our lives were drastically altered. 

Even though our lives remained changed, a sense of normalcy returned when the The NBA resumed with the twenty-two teams that were in playoff contention on July 31st. All twenty-two teams, with staff and players, would play in a bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. [1] The decision, made by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, forced players to leave their families and hometowns to play at the former amusement park, which had been previously shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19, as well. The idea was simple but the implementation proved to be incredibly difficult. Games were played in three arenas, and as teams got eliminated from playoff contention, they would pack up and go home, free from quarantine and the bubble. The difficult implementation, however, proved incredibly rewarding and successful. In the span of ninety-five days, the NBA has zero positive tests. [2] The season ended on October 11, 2020, with LeBron James and the Lakers celebrating a win to bring the Los Angeles Lakers to 17 championships, tied for the most number of championships for one team with the Boston Celtics. [3]

The 2021 NBA Season began on December 22, 2020, barely more than two months after the 2020 NBA season had just ended. This time, however, there would be no bubble. [4] Mimicking the nonchalant attitude of other sports leagues such as the MLB and NBA, in which numerous high profile players, such as New England Patriots quarterback, Cam Newton, and Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA proceeded. [5] The loss of the bubble was immediately noticeable, as the NBA was forced to reschedule a record four games in the first twenty days of play. High-profile athletes, such as the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and 76ers’ Seth Curry all tested positive in the span of twenty days. [4] 

The weight of the failing protocols, restrictions, and policies that NBA has attempted to implement fall on trainers and individuals on the NBA. The overwhelming nature is outlined in a quote by a personal trainer in the NBA where he states ‘“You can’t miss a single body. If you make one mistake, you can most likely cost us the game and shut us down for a period of time. That’s a lot of pressure that’s causing a lot of us to lose sleep, choose work over our families, and not spend as much time with them.”’ [4] The immense pressure of the threat of COVID-19 is seemingly lost on many and is falling on a few. As the season goes on, it remains to be seen whether the NBA will be able to handle the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The personal responsibility of the players, along with the distressing state of the nation, are both out of the hands of fans of the NBA. However, the question remains: as Americans and as world citizens, is the risk of the NBA worth it? The answer seems to be one only history books can write, but for now, it answers a decisive yes, evidenced merely by the continued playing of the NBA.


  2. CNBC
  3. Lakers
  4. The Ringer