On March 11, 2020, the NBA was informed that Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. In response to the news, the NBA announced that all game play would be suspended and that the association would use this hiatus to “determine [its] next steps for moving forward” in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, this came as a huge shock to professionals and sports fans all around the world. COVID-19 presented itself as a much bigger problem than what we had all expected. Fast forward to a few weeks later, COVID-19 began spreading faster than ever. More public restrictions and curfews were being put into place, sport seasons were cut short all across the globe, schools and businesses were shutting down, and options for face to face interactions were slowly becoming more unsafe and unavailable. At my local park, cautionary measures regarding the spread of COVID-19 were taken. Basketball hoops were dismantled and the courts themselves were inaccessible. As a person who plays basketball nearly everyday, I was filled with sadness and fear.
As humans, we crave affection, social interaction, and the ability to connect. With the suspension of the NBA, many fans lost the ability to connect with the sport and their fellow basketball lovers. There were no spotlight performances that people could talk about amongst their friends and family; no close games that would make many of us stare at our screens anxiously while quietly cheering for our favorite team in the back of our mind; no feelings of disappointment or sorrow that could be felt by a heart-wrenching defeat.
Loneliness, boredom, and sadness was only increasing among Americans. The motivation to pursue the goals and dreams that everyone had made in the beginning of January was also diminishing. According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, conditions of depression and mental illnesses were increasing among Americans during this social quarantine. It had seemed that COVID-19 would only get more mentally, emotionally, and physically stressful.
Fast forward another couple of months ; the NBA announced that a return to play was finalized for July 30. On June 4, NBA’s Board of Governors approved a comprehensive plan for a 22 team return with a start date of July 30, 2020 and an end date of no later than October 13, 2020. The games among the 22 teams will be played in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney Resort, with no live audience or tickets available. However, these games will be live broadcasted on websites and channels such as ESPN.
The news of the return of the NBA sparked joy and relief among many Americans. Families can now watch, cheer, and react to their favorite teams competing. Friends are using live video chatting or calling to support their teams as well. The return of the NBA has finally brought something through which people can connect with each other; something we can look forward to; something that provides us hope in these unprecedented times.
Although COVID-19 may be an invisible enemy, it will not defeat us. With the return of the NBA, many people have now been presented an opportunity to connect with one another. The game of basketball, something so disregarded in times of quarantine, will spark hope and freedom across millions of Americans.