You all know me for being a huge pop culture enthusiast. What you don’t know about me is that I’m also a huge sport fan. I watch almost every sport but mainly I’m of course the most enthused about football, basketball, tennis, and track and field.
Earlier this year, being the sports fan that I am, I was devastated to learn that we wouldn’t be getting March Madness, or the London Marathon where we could’ve seen marathon legends Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele go head to head for an epic win unlike anything we’ve seen before, or even the Olympics!
Spring and most of summer has been a sad occurrence this year with no sports to occupy us during the days. No favorite teams to cheer on or athletes to be inspired by.
Then, on July 30, my wide world of sports returned as the NBA season resumed, thus bringing with it a wave of personal happiness as other sporting events began to come to life as well.
The brand new season would take place in Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL on the Wide World of Sports campus where 22 teams would duke it out for new seeding positions and chances to play in the playoffs.
Last week, the regular season was complete and the playoffs would begin this Monday. It’s very clear that the Bubble is a different beast.
Just think about the Phoenix Suns, a team that was 26-39 going into the Bubble, going on to win all eight games in the newly formed regular season, almost making their way into the playoffs, and at their head was Devin Booker, a player that shocked basketball fans as he continuously dropped numbers and moments that made him a basketball player worth paying attention to.
Would this team have done the same thing toward the end of the regular season if it wasn’t in a Bubble where teams weren’t forced to fly from hither to thither? Where teams weren’t onslaughted by 20,000 raucous fans screaming at you to lose for two-four games. Who knows.
The Bubble has allowed newcomers to shine when otherwise they would’ve been drowned out while our favorite stars have sometimes seemed to disappear. I’m talking about Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Each of these players led their teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks, to the top of their conferences and both teams, being #1 seeds, were looked to as favorites for the title of this year’s playoffs. Yet both teams struggled in yesterday’s playoffs.
The Milwaukee Bucks would lose poorly against the Orlando Magic, losing by a twelve-point deficit. And honestly, the game never even felt that close. And the Lakers, well, I fell asleep during the third quarter but I saw the signs. They were going to lose and they did. The Los Angeles Lakers fell to an upset loss by seven, the Trail Blazers’ 100 points to the Lakers’ 93.
Sports critics have retained the illusion that the Lakers are still the same team they were before the Bubble. I have known otherwise. I’ve watched nearly every one of their Bubble games and every single one has been cringe-worthy. Their field-goal percentage has been frighteningly dismal, Anthony Davis has become a husk of himself, Danny Green shoots airballs left and right, Kyle Kuzma isn’t stepping up to the plate, and even Lebron James isn’t playing at the level I’m used to seeing him play.
The past two days of playoffs have provided some obvious wins and some jaw-dropping surprises. Even the Los Angeles Clippers, another team people have deemed obvious winners of the trophy, struggled against the #7 seed Dallas Mavericks on Monday night and probably would’ve lost if Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t ejected in the third quarter.
Of course, we can’t get in over our head over the results of the first game of the playoffs, but this playoff season is going to be different. At the rate things are going, the strongest team in the Bubble is the Houston Rockets who absolutely manhandled the Oklahoma City Thunder (without Russel Westbrook!)
The two teams fighting for the trophy could easily be the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat who have had, in my opinion, the strongest cases to get to the end. The Heat proved themselves against the Indiana Pacers and like I said before, the Rockets are doing very well.
When we look back to this season, its playoffs, and its eventual winner, will it be deemed a playoff to remember or will people view it as a busted season because #1 seeds Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks potentially are defeated in the first round?! If anyone but the Los Angeles Clippers win, considering a first round loss of the Lakers and Bucks, will fans consider the winner to be valid or will it be constantly pointed out that they won in a crowdless Bubble? That they didn’t win fair and square. (Even though it’s the most fair and square thing to have two teams playing in an arena with no fans.)
How will the Bubble affect these players’ legacies going forward? What will we say ten years from now when looking back at this historic time? It’s a fascinating thought, a thought so intriguing that I had to write this post today.
Of course, things may change in the coming days. The Lakers and Bucks could go on to return to their former greatness. Maybe Anthony Davis will learn how to play in the playoffs and the Clippers will squash the Mavericks as previously expected. Maybe Lebron will go on to win his fourth title, a title for the Lakers that will feel all the more special considering Kobe’s unfortunate passing in January. Maybe even Giannis will a get chance to acquire his first title, an honor he deserves considering how talented a player he is.
Whatever the case, we’ll see how things turn out and I’m excited for all of it.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a splendid day.
Images required from CNN, Skysports, and Clutch Points