Writing about 2020 is a bit of a complicated mission. Partly because everyone has done it, partly because it has actually been a complicated year, dramatic in many ways. While restricting the field to the NBA only, the 2020 vintage remains difficult, there has been a continuous series of situations, almost all difficult and rarely positive.
It has been a year that has made us understand how much the NBA is linked to its surroundings, how much it is influenced by the facts of the world that have nothing to do with a ball entering a basket, but also how it can affect them, those facts . I don’t think there have been or will be many more years in fact, where the NBA summary of the year is so similar to a summary of the year itself.
The Morey case
The League started 2020, like the rest of the world, bringing with it the aftermath of the Hong Kong issue. It was October 2019 when, through his Twitter profile, Daryl Morey supported the protests that were taking place in those days in Hong Kong against a new bill regarding the legal system, seen as an interference by China.
The tweet had serious consequences, with the blackout of the matches by Chinese state television, which caused a strongly negative impact on the League’s coffers. The Lakers and Rockets players experienced even more direct consequences in China right at the moment of the crime, going from playing a preseason game to being stuck in the hotel in a situation of uncertainty, in a strange anticipation of what would happen a few months later in Orlando.
Public handling of the situation is a complex subject. Before making any judgment, it is good to remember one of the basic lessons of any economics course: game theory. Made famous by John Nash (the Russell Crowe of A Beautiful Mind), this theory proposes the simplest model for evaluating the choices of individuals.
In short, anyone who makes a decision (in this case whether or not to take sides politically on the issue), does so after making a calculation between certain and potential losses and revenues. Daryl Morey did it before that tweet, aware that he was risking his job (China will actually ask for his firing, which Silver refused) and balancing that risk with the personal involvement of a friend in Hong Kong he felt was in danger. Adam Silver and the NBA world do it, trying to mediate freedom of expression, an important value in the League, and the obvious economic implications in a commercial relationship that is now over forty years, which started by chance from Hong Kong, where David Stern founded the first Asian office of the NBA. Even those who oppose this management do so, considering it “too convenient”.
This is to say that no position is taken exclusively in the name of absolute values and that for this very reason all positions must be listened to and considered, and then supported or fought according to one’s own inclinations.
The farewell of Kobe Bryant
January 26. If there is anything more difficult than telling 2020, that something is the death of Kobe Bryant. Considering the fact that you are here, on this site, I do not think there is a need to reconstruct the story or to relive the moments, experiences and stories that followed it: it is very likely you still have all this in mind, aggravated by the weight. emotional personal with which you lived the tragedy.
It tragically happened and now we will no longer be able to see those plays that we now know by heart (I don’t even have to link to you the game on the island, the dribble behind your back and the spinning dunk against the Nuggets or whatever your Kobe Moment is) with the same lightness. Kobe Bryant is dead, that’s all. And that everything is a lot.
The social commitment of the League
With a little time jump, let’s go to May 25th. George Floyd dies in the hands, and below the knee, of US law enforcement and the whole world sees it, in a video that definitively proves the relativity of the concept of time, because it is impossible that the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of its duration are the same perceived length looking at it. Again, the NBA is influenced and influences in turn. He takes to the streets and gets off to the streets. It makes people discuss and discuss.
Here, too, it’s always good to take game theory into account. It cannot be a coincidence that the first team to boycott the match scheduled after the events in Keynosha, Wisconsin, are the Bucks of Milwaukee in which a player Sterling Brown is on the roster, who received the proposal of 400 thousand dollars to silence the treatment received in 2018, for a wrong parking.
Although it is easy and, for many points of view, right to consider the choices and actions made by NBA players as political in the light of these events, this should not make us ignore the personal component that certainly triggered the initiatives the epochal stop, from whatever angle you judge, imposed by the Bucks in the Orlando bubble was not planned, but rather “belly”.
The virus and the Orlando bubble
Let’s go back. It is March 11 and the season is suspended indefinitely for a minimum of 30 days, after the swab carried out by Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus. After a few days, the NBA actually closes its doors to plan a safe return no earlier than June.
The prediction is one month wrong, because on July 9 the teams start training camp in the Orlando bubble. The extraordinary nature of the NBA lies in having transformed the scariest event of the year into an opportunity to test something new and unique. Disneyworld’s “minimworld” turns out to be the lesser evil. Managing to guarantee us a season finale worthy of the name, even if many put it, and it is not easy to blame them, next to an asterisk. For the players of the Lakers that conquered ring is the crowning glory of a life arrived in the most difficult year, and it will be impossible not to remember it happily.
Speaking of happiness, allow me a little digression. It is certainly not an event that has touched the NBA (for now), but the new launch of The Shot is undoubtedly one of the best moments of the year for the writer and I am confident that it will also be for Italian sports journalism in the near future