The date is Thursday, April 26, 2012. The Sacramento Kings, led by then still-potential superstar DeMarcus Cousins’ 23 points and 19 rebounds, have just defeated the depleted Los Angeles Lakers, of whom is made up of an aged Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, in what was both teams respective regular season finale. This matchup, the final across the entire league, marked the conclusion of what was a shortened NBA season, thanks to the infamous lockout that dragged out the summer prior. In what totaled to be a 66-game season, the NBA, as predominant an institution of professional sport as there is, proved its ability to provide a quality product, even if shortened, to their ever-growing base of fans, domestic and international. The Dallas Mavericks would ultimately win the championship this season, in a Finals matchup against the newly constructed Miami Heat, in the first year of what was their big-three era. In hindsight, this was a time so much easier and for so many reasons, that likely most any sports fans, let alone basketball fans, would wish we could all go back to. What we would all do, I’m sure, to just go back to normal.
Flash forward to just two weeks ago. The date is March 11, 2020. What was slated as just another Wednesday in the NBA, turned into what will inevitably go down as one of the most infamous days in all of sports history. Memorialized by a Utah Jazz vs. OKC Thunder game which, despite the packed full stadium of fans, players already on the court, and officials just moments away from throwing the ball up, would never officially start. In what was one of the most dramatic live course of events maybe ever seen in sports, in the midst of growing Coronavirus concerns—the pandemic steadily taking the world by storm, though at this stage had seemingly yet to enact action or response within the U.S.—the NBA cancelled the game as official reports came out determining that one of the team’s players, Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for the virus. The moments surrounding the realization were chaotic, confusing, and just plain weird. Everything froze. From the team doctor quite literally running onto the court from the locker-room to inform officials of the news, to the idle waiting around by everybody for the leagues official determination, to even thereafter the announcement of the decision, it seemed as if we were living through a bad movie, that would just continually get worse. The fans were escorted out of the arena, and the two teams were quarantined in their respective locker rooms, for quite literally hours, awaiting more tests.
Within hours of the cancelled game, fans of the sport were delivered some of the most disappointing and disheartening news in recent history—commissioner Adam Silver declared that the NBA would be suspending the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season until further notice. The NBA moved so quickly in response to the coronavirus concerns, it was almost hard to keep up with for some, but what was made clear early on was that the league would be the one setting precedent, and not solely within basketball. The dominoes that fell as result of the NBA’s firm and immediate protective stance each stung, as fans of just about every sport there is were subjected to more and more of the same news—canceled, canceled, postponed, canceled.
As it currently stands, the 2019-20 NBA season was about as long—or short—as the 2011 lockout season. The league leading Milwaukee Bucks, with a record of 53–12, have played exactly 65 games on the year, with every other team logging roughly the same. The Boston Celtics, who just recently had secured a playoff lock, had been having an exceptionally impressive season, with a 43–21 record. Since the initial report of Gobert’s diagnosis, players around the league have selectively been being confirmed to also be positive carriers of the coronavirus. While not every team has had confirmed cases, Celtics' star Marcus Smart just last week announced via his Instagram that he tested positive for the virus, marking the first of cases within the Celtics organization. Players around the league have been instructed to practice social distancing, and as it stands have yet to be given a potential return date to action. There is hope across league offices, as well as among played and fans alike, for a potential return to on court action by sometime in the late summer months, but unlikely anytime beforehand, as the CDC has suggested the cancellation or postponement of any events hosting significant attendees for at least the next eight weeks. It will surely be a while until we see another basketball game, or likely any sporting event for that matter, which is unfortunate given sports ability to so universally bring people together—something that the current state of the world could certainly use. As humbling as it is to remember that we are all in this together, it sure would be nice to be able to watch sports while doing it. Here’s hoping for everybody’s best health, and that this situation doesn’t last too, too long.