Chase Olson – Sports Writer
The NBA bubble restart delivered on expectations by putting on the best playoffs of all time. Back in March, the NBA was the first major sports organization to shut down. After several months off, 22 teams went down to Orlando, Florida with dreams of becoming the next NBA champions. These teams went to the ESPN Worldwide Sports Complex to live and compete for nearly three months in the bubble.
Incredibly, zero players caught COVID-19. The league commissioner, Adam Silver, took many precautionary steps to make sure this bubble was successful. Upon arriving, players and personnel had to go through a quarantine period when they first arrived. They also had to undergo testing every day and wear masks at all times while walking around. Players, coaches, and referees had to leave their families to stay safe from this disease. Games were held in an empty arena with virtual fans on T.V. screens around the court. Because of all the sacrifices from players, coaches, fans, and league executives, the NBA bubble was a complete success.
In the end, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers could not be stopped in their incredible playoff run. The Lakers were dominant all regular season. They continued their dominance by going 19-10 in the bubble. In the Western Conference, they faced off against three very good teams; the Portland Trailblazers, the Houston Rockets, and the Denver Nuggets. All three of these teams gave the Lakers a run for their money, but the Lakers’ depth and playoff experience eventually helped them win their 17th championship in franchise history. That 17th title tying the Boston Celtics for most all-time. LeBron James walked away with the NBA finals MVP award, giving him his fourth of his career. This makes him the second player in NBA history to receive at least four regular-season MVPs and four finals MVPs in his career. The only other player to achieve this, Michael Jordan. James became only the fourth player in league history to win at least three championships on three different teams.
As dominant as LeBron was, he could not have done it without help from Anthony Davis. Davis won the first championship of his career in his first year with the Lakers. The Lakers also had help from veterans like Rajan Rondo, Dwight Howard, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. As inspiring as this performance was on the court, this championship meant so much to the city of Los Angeles as they continue to mourn the loss of their star, Kobe Bryant. Bryant passed away back in January, and the Lakers have dedicated their season in his memory. After every single huddle, the team breaks out by saying “Mamba on three! 1, 2, 3, MAMBA!” in honor of Bryant. Kobe spent all 20 seasons with the Lakers and won 5 championships of his own with the Lakers.
The Lakers faced off against a rugged Miami Heat team in the NBA finals. The Miami Heat returned to the NBA finals for their first time since LeBron played for the Heat in 2014. This time, the Heat were led by 5-time NBA all-star, Jimmy Butler. Butler has bounced around from team to team, but eventually found his home in South Beach. He left everything he had on the court and showed that he is truly the ultimate teammate. The Miami Heat were the 5 seed in the eastern conference, making them the third-lowest seed ever to make the NBA finals. They have a mix of great young talents like Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn, along with savvy veterans like Butler, Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Udonis Haslem. The Heat’s path to the NBA finals was also very challenging. They had to face the Indiana Pacers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the two-time reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a very deep and talented Boston Celtics team.
For NBA players, this restart was about more than just basketball. They used their platform to promote social justice issues that affect the African American communities. The NBA put “Black Lives Matter” along center court and allowed certain key messages on the backs of player’s jerseys. The Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their game after the killing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Once the Bucks did this, the league postponed all playoff games scheduled for that day. NBA players also went to many of the Black Lives Matter rallies over the summer.
Overall, the NBA bubble was incredible. Even in these trying times, the NBA did not let the COVID-19 completely derail their season. Although us fans could not be at the games, we got to witness close games, buzzer beaters and the best playoffs in NBA history.