COVID-19 may have made life difficult. But for the NBA, quarantine ended up being a temporary setback. The NBA created a campus in Florida, dubbed “The Bubble,” with strict quarantine safeguards in place to protect players. After an eight-game season and a full-length playoff, the Lakers were crowned the NBA champions of the 2019-2020 season in October, undoubtedly the latest (in terms of calendar) champions in NBA history.
Although the NBA season worked out in the end, it left a big question mark over how the off-season would work. Normally, the off-season would begin after the conclusion of the NBA Finals in June. But with the delays due to COVID-19, all normalcy has been shaken up.
The NBA Players Association wanted a January 2021 start, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has insisted the league would lose too much revenue if it started too late and proposed a Christmas week start. In fact, reports have indicated that the total amount of money lost by a post-Christmas start would be between $500 million and $1 billion. The players compromised with the league and settled on a 72-game season with training camp starting Dec. 1, the season beginning on Dec. 22, and the last regular season games ending on May 16. The NBA Finals would then end no later than July 22 to give time for players to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.
While this arrangement may help the NBA schedule get back on track, not everyone is happy with the new season timeline. Lakers superstar LeBron James took to Instagram to voice his displeasure, posting a picture from SportsCenter captioned with a facepalm emoji that showed the proposed 71-day off-season as the shortest off-season of any professional sport ever.
As a player entering his 18th year in the NBA, LeBron is understandably concerned with the early start, as the mileage on his body could be taking more of a toll as he ages. With the new schedule and uncertainty surrounding how players’ bodies will hold up with such a short break between seasons, the 2020-2021 NBA season looks to be an uncertain but interesting phenomenon.