Woj bomb: the NBA is back! The 2019-2020 NBA will resume after the Coronavirus unexpectedly postponed games until further notice. 22 teams will be invited back to play 8 final regular season games and hold a potential play-in tournament for the 8th seed in both conferences.
The hiatus from the regular season will be a challenge for teams returning to play. Because of the many variables the Coronavirus has added to this season and the ensuing playoffs, some fans have wondered if there will be an asterisk next the name of the 2019-2020 NBA champions.
The main argument is that the disruption might cause some of the league’s top teams to lose their rhythm and come back playing much worse than they were back in March. For teams such as the Lakers and the Bucks, it might seem unfair if their lost momentum ended up being the reason they lost a playoff series.
On the other hand, this season’s NBA champion might be even more impressive than in years past. The players that pushed themselves to stay in shape without scheduled practices or workouts should be rewarded for their efforts. The suspension of the season really put teams on the ropes, and those who took the challenge head on deserve the advantage over the competition.
Only two other occurrences in NBA history are comparable to this situation: the lockouts of 1998-1999 and 2011. Both lockouts, which were in regard to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, caused the respective seasons to be shorted from the usual 82 games.
Starting with the 1998-1999 season, only 50 regular season games were played and there was no All-Star game. The lockout coincided with Michael Jordan’s second retirement, negatively affecting television ratings and ticket sales. The season ended with the San Antonio Spurs winning their first even NBA title over the New York Knicks. The Spurs were led by then sophomore Tim Duncan who won Finals MVP, while the Knicks battled through injuries and crawled their way to the championship series despite starting the playoffs as the 8th seed in the East.
Among critics of the 1999 Spurs’ title is Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal. He says that their championship shouldn’t count because they didn’t play “a real season”. His comments came among talks of cancelling the 2019-2020 season, which he also says deserves an asterisk.
The next lockout shortened season was 2011-2012, which ended with LeBron James winning his first NBA title with the Miami Heat. 66 games were held in the regular season, significantly more than the previous lockout but few enough games to bother the league. There was speculation that a shortened training camp led to the untimely injuries of many key players, possible affecting playoff outcomes.
The 1999 Spurs and 2012 Heat are considered champions by the league without any sort of official asterisk. With that being the case, it wouldn’t make sense to add one next to the names of the 2020 champions, but it does make you think a little bit.
Would the 1999 Spurs still win a title if the league had played all 82 seasons? Hard to say. They handled the Knicks in 5 games, but would they have endured as many injuries as they did in the playoffs after a longer season with more conditioning? Maybe. But perhaps they wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all, having dealt with injuries toward the end of the season instead and missing out on the 8th seed. If an injury riddled Knicks squad could beat the rest of the Eastern conference I see no reason why the Spurs wouldn’t as well.
Fans certainly don’t see LeBron and Co.’s first title as a question mark. While injuries to Derrick Rose and Joachim Noah certianly hurt Chicago’s playoff chances that year, Miami’s third star Chris Bosh only played in 14 of the Heat’s 23 playoff games, starting in only 10 contests. While injuries may have been an issue for the entire league, the Heat were not immune themselves.
No matter the end result, we’re happy to see basketball make its long-awaited return. Whoever lifts the Larry O’Brien trophy in October will have worked hard to get there, and we will respect that.
Featured Photo Credit: Morry Gash, AP
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