It’s Time We Stop Lying To Ourselves. Basketball Is Over And The NBA Isn’t Coming Back

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Illustration: Eric Barrow

It’s only March, and Kobe Bryant’s death isn’t even the biggest story in sports, let alone the NBA.

That’s how crazy 2020 has been. And since extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, it’s time for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to shut this thing down, for good.

On Thursday evening, the list of NBA players that have tested positive for COVID-19 doubled. The Denver Nuggets have confirmed one positive test, while the Philadelphia 76ers added three more to the list. Then the Lakers announced that two of their players had tested positive, while Celtics guard Marcus Smart took to social media to announce that his name had also been added to the list.


“I’m OK, I feel fine,” he said. “I don’t feel any of the symptoms. But I can’t stress enough practicing social distancing and really keeping yourself away from a large group of people and just really washing your hands and help protect yourself. And help protect others by protecting yourself.”

Unfortunately, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Christian Wood, and Kevin Durant and three of his teammates now have company.


“I’m optimistic by nature, and I want to believe that we’re going to be able to salvage at least some portions of this season,” Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols just two days ago.


“I have heard from a lot of our players. It’s only been, it’s actually been less than a week. They’re going stir crazy, they want to play, they want to compete. Players, as you know, I mean, unlike a lot of us in our positions we can just go back to what we were doing, but every player is fighting something that’s unwinnable, and that’s the aging process. So a lost year or lost portion of a season in their careers is very different from other people, so we’re gonna try by every means we can to play basketball again, but I say that the safety and health of our players is first, and our fans, which is why I don’t want to speculate more on that.”

Every sport that should be playing right now isn’t. But yet, it feels like Silver and the NBA are the only ones hoping to salvage their season. On Thursday morning, the league sent out a memo informing players that they are banned from using team facilities right now. Later that day California Governor Gavin Newsome issued a “Stay At Home” order.


“There’s a social contract here, people I think recognize the need to do more ... They will begin to adjust and adapt as they have been quite significantly,” Newsome said. “We will have social pressure and that will encourage people to do the right thing.”

It’s kind of hard to think about the NBA returning when a state that houses four franchises has been shut down.


But the best example of why Silver must commence with the necessary evil of canceling the rest of the season is due to his own diligence. On Thursday, ESPN released a report that suggested why NBA players have seemed to jump the line when it comes to getting tested.

Silver has been on top of COVID-19 since January. And before the league was dealing with Bryant’s tragic death, the Commissioner was coming up with ways how to protect his league, which led to the NBA being at the front of the line when it came time for testing, due to them having a plan of action that included reaching out to local health officials, specialists, and centers, along with contacting private companies to obtain tests.


The league was so on top of it that Silver addressed it at the All-Star Game last month, but nobody was listening.

“It’s moved to the top of virtually everyone’s agenda,” he said then. “I mean, particularly in the Wuhan province. It’s almost hard for us to be having conversations about the broadcasting of games when there’s a major national, if not global, health crisis happening.”


However, the optics aren’t the best. Because despite the fact that the NBA planned ahead and paid attention when the rest of us didn’t, it still feels like having a jump shot is the best way to receive testing.

“I get it,” said National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts. “People should not be having to wait in line. The at-risk population should be the first to be tested. But god damn it, if the government had done what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be competing for an opportunity to be tested.”


“We were doing games where tens of thousands of people were coming into our arenas. We were exposing potentially a lot of people to being infected.”

In a perfect world, the NBA playoffs would be starting in less than a month on April 18, with the NBA Finals beginning on June 4.


But this world is far from perfect.

Our government officials have dropped the ball at every step during the process, and we, that means all of us, could have done more, sooner.


It’s like Silver and the league have been the only adults in the room since January. And since “with great power comes great responsibility,” it’s time for the most powerful man in arguably the most powerful sports league on this planet, to do the responsible thing.

Cancel the rest of the season.