It’s hot NBA playoffs in the dog days of summer. I was watching the highly acclaimed Showtime series this weekend, “The Chi,” when I remembered the last major sporting event I covered was the NBA All-Star game in my hometown on the West Side of Chicago in late February.
I’m so blessed I was able to avoid being shot by the 63rd Street mob and avoided the coronavirus. Imagine 24,000 fans, and at the time we had not heard a peep about COVID-19 or social distancing or pandemic.
That changed in a matter of weeks, and 169,000 U.S. deaths later it’s August 17 and the NBA has survived a 22-team eight-game restart and one play-in game won by Portland over Memphis Now let the playoffs begin. The NBA shut down March 12 after Rudy Gobert of Utah tested positive for COVID-19, and the rest of the sports world followed.
The NHL, MLS, PGA Tour and MLB stopped spring training. The NFL canceled OTA’s and the NCAA canceled the rich March Madness and the NCAA tournament. You might think we’ve come a long way since March 12 because at least we’re playing games again, right?
Don’t buy it. Yes, the MLS, NHL, WNBA, PGA Tour, tennis and MLB are playing games again. The NFL is in training camp and oh, remember, they canceled all of the pre-season games because the NFLPA was in fear.
The BIG Ten, PAC 12, and BIG East Conferences all canceled the fall sports seasons this week. The BIG presidents voted 12-2 following the advice of science and medical professionals to not play.
Student-athletes are not paid, unlike the NBA and NHL, and can’t be isolated or forced to exist for months in a bubble. That still did not stop angry mob-like protesting parents at Ohio State and Iowa who look like saps after writing complaining and threatening BIG Commissioner Kevin Warren.
“Oh, how dare a Black man keep our children from playing football and basketball!” After all, that’s right, President Donald Trump said the coronavirus would just magically disappear. All lies—a sucker is born every day.
The University of Nebraska and Iowa wanted to play. “I’ve asked a third of our football team… ’What did you think of the BIG Ten’s decision?” said Gophers Football Coach P.J. Fleck. “Every player…30 for 30 said they think the BIG made the right decision.”
Rutgers disclosed that 30 of its players tested positive for COVID-19.The SEC and ACC, the conferences in the South, have not officially said so, but it appears they will try and play.
So here we are. The NBA playoffs begin this week in the land of Mickey Mouse and Disney World in Orlando; so far the bubble has not burst. Milwaukee (56-17) again had the best regular season record. Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James (52-19) and defending champion Toronto (53-19) collectively had the best NBA records. Sixteen teams have qualified.
The Timberwolves—this just in—missed the playoffs. What a shock! For a record 15 of the last 16 years! Owner Glen Taylor says he would like to sell the team. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a great Idea.
Obviously, NBA owners may all be billionaires but they are not created equally, not mentally, nor do they share the same thirst and passion to win. No sports league has lost as much as the NBA has since last year, pre-COVID-19 nearly $500 million thanks to Houston’s outspoken general manager. China severed business with the NBA over human rights issues.
Yet since the restart, no sports league has done more for us as Black Americans since George Floyd was murdered. The NBA has committed $300 million to social justice causes. Charlotte owner Michael Jordan has committed $100 million.
Black Lives Matter is highlighted at center court in Orlando. NBA players are encouraged to display personal messages on the backs of their jerseys. We have a long way to go in this country, but thanks to the NBA, this is a good start.
Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on “Almanac” (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.