The word “Asterisk” gets thrown around a lot in sports.
From Barry Bonds’ infamous home-run record to Ohio State’s questionable BCS National Championship win over the U in 2003, there have been a plethora of legendary sports moments that have been marred in controversy. The stigma is rampant throughout the medium, but one could argue that the stigma is thrown around the most in the game of basketball. The list of tainted titles and/or legacies runs a mile long. Hakeem Olajuwon only won championships because Michael Jordan retired, Wilt Chamberlain stats look so great because he played against undersized centers (a myth, by the way), the Lakers needed help from the officials to beat the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, we could be here all day. So, naturally, people in the community have already begun etching the asterisk next to this year’s NBA Champion before the season can even resume. Honestly, there is no denying it either. It’s 2020. This entire year is a landmark in human history. A big, shiny, Yao Ming sized asterisk is going to come along with anything that gets accomplished before everything is back to normal (or whatever “normal” is going to be classified as by the time the pandemic is under control), and the NBA is no different. The shortened slate of games, the bubble, the fact that there will be no fans in attendance through the rest of the season, and the “Play-in tournament” to decide the 8th seeds in each conference. Everything about this season, historically, is going to stick out like a green hat with an orange bill (props to anyone who gets the reference).
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Sure, the exact Websters dictionary definition of the word asterisk may read as “the character * thought of as being appended to something (such as an athletic accomplishment included in a record book) typically in order to indicate that there is a limiting fact or consideration which makes that thing less important or impressive than it would otherwise be”. Despite that, I’d argue there are plenty of events throughout NBA history that have an asterisk next to it to highlight something that makes said event even GREATER than it would otherwise be. For example, there is an asterisk next to the Bulls championship in 1996, as it marked the best record for a title-winning team in NBA history. There’s also an asterisk next to the Cavaliers’ finals win in 2016 since LeBron’s squad became the first team in playoff history to overcome a 3-1 game deficit. Not to mention it was their first championship in franchise history (and the first championship for the city of Cleveland in over 50 years). That is night-and-day different than the asterisk next to last year’s NBA champion Toronto Raptors who needed six games to finish off a comically-depleted Golden State Warriors team.
We are all living in unprecedented circumstances, but the point of this article is that we are ALL living in unprecedented circumstances. That includes every single player participating in the NBA’s restart. Every team is dealing with the same hardships as the rest. No one has a major leg up as there is yet to be a key player on any team opt-out of the restart. To use a poker analogy: There’s no such thing as a bad hand, only bad players, and every team in the bubble is going in with the exact same set of cards. Winning an NBA Championship in this scenario will be an accomplishment that we talk about for the rest of time. Sure, there could be some major players be knocked out of the restart due to injury or a COVID-Positive diagnosis (knock on wood), but let’s not allow that dark cloud to hangover this restart before it even gets off the ground. Championship teams find a way, plain and simple. This bubble is going to test the mettle of the league’s top stars like we’ve never seen before. The contenders and the pretenders are going to be crystalized in short order once the season kicks off.
So please, don’t walk into this NBA restart with a glass-half-empty mentality. Cheer for your favorite team (Or jeer you’re least favorite team, to each their own), have fun and recognize that we are all witnessing history in the making. Despite COVID-19’s best efforts, the NBA will crown a champion in 2020. One that should be glorified and celebrated, not one that should be undercut and ridiculed.
The NBA season officially restarts tonight on TNT with the New Orleans Pelicans taking on the Utah Jazz at 6:30 PM eastern, followed by the much-anticipated rematch between the Lakers and Clippers at 9.
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