This week, student blogger, Neel D., shares how the pandemic changed one of his favorite hobbies--watching NBA basketball.

Basketball fans remember on March 11, 2020, when the NBA made the decision to stop the game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. Thousands of fans in the stadium were forced to leave as the players went back to their respective locker rooms. In one of the craziest days in NBA history, nobody was sure if the NBA would ever resume their season. NBA players were testing positive for coronavirus and shortly after, the whole country was placed on lockdown. 
All hope seemed to be lost for resuming the season. I could not grasp the fact that basketball may not come back for a few months. My favorite player, Kevin Durant, was injured for the season, so I resorted to watching highlights on YouTube. Every day I would turn on the TV, hoping to see that the NBA would return in a few days. Nothing would be shown. I played basketball outside, but it didn’t feel the same knowing that there was no basketball to talk about with my friends. I lost hope but was more worried about individuals’ safety at a time when the country was on lockdown.  

However, commissioner Adam Silver was determined to finish out the season. The NBA purchased a “bubble” in Orlando, Florida for a reported $150 million in Walt Disney World. The NBA devised a plan to restart games on July 30th, where only potential playoff teams would be able to compete. While no fans were able to attend in-person, the NBA’s partnership with Microsoft allowed for virtual fans on the sidelines. Eventually, the families of the players would be able to attend. 

Even though I needed to focus on applying to college, I could not resist watching a few games. I have always turned to watching basketball in high school as a way to detach myself from my academics. There is just something about watching players dribble and shoot a ball that engages me for three hours. I have even started to write about my analysis of the NBA, looking at the psychology of the players and statistics of the game. Coincidentally, my interest for those subjects came from taking AP Psychology as a freshman and AP Statistics as a sophomore.    

The playoffs were one of the most intense I have ever watched. From the emergence of young stars to the continued success of the league’s superstars, the playoffs did not disappoint. The #5-seeded Miami Heat beat the #4, #1, and #2 seeds in the Eastern Conference on their way to their first finals appearance since 2014. The #1-seeded Lakers beat the #8, #4, and #3 seed on their way to their first finals since 2010. While the Heat were able to steal two games from the eventual champion Lakers, they were climbing an uphill battle the whole series after two of their best players injured themselves in Game 1. The season came to an end on October 11, 2020, 355 days after opening night, marking the season as technically the longest season ever. 

With the NBA now over, fans like myself are unsure when they will be able to sit in arenas again. In the end, we have to commend everyone involved in the NBA restart for bringing back the sport millions of fans watch every day. However, the NBA is not the only sport to run during the pandemic. Other leagues such as the NFL have started their seasons with limited to no fans in the stands. The Dodgers just won the World Series a few weeks ago.

The NBA plans to start again December 22nd and many changes have been made. The Toronto Raptors have moved to Tampa Bay because of orders from the Canadian government. Most likely, no fans will be allowed in stadiums and the daily COVID-19 testing has to continue. Only time will tell what the future of sports will look like, but until then, continue to mask up, social distance, and stay safe!