by Mohammad Samra / Staff Reporter
The Staples Center grew louder and louder as players from both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers took to their respective sides, ready to begin the season.
The mixture of gold and navy blue uniforms was a welcome sight after four long months without meaningful basketball — as was seeing Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with their new teams.
After a busy offseason, both were championship contenders on a collision course to an undeniably suspenseful Western Conference Finals — and whoever represents the West in the NBA Finals would almost certainly become champions.
As the season went on, more and more stories began to develop. Carmelo Anthony showed the league he wasn’t done yet after joining Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic on the Portland Trail Blazers. Zion Williamson made his long-awaited debut with the New Orleans Pelicans after an injury-riddled rookie season. Likely Rookie of the Year Ja Morant exceeded expectations and carried the Memphis Grizzlies all the way up to a potential playoff spot.
The death of Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna devastated players around the league, who all grew up watching Kobe. His death made it nearly impossible not to root for the Lakers. One of the greatest moments in sports history could be LeBron and the Lakers hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy 10 years after Kobe led them to their most recent championship.
Whether they win or lose, it would be an emotional roller coaster to follow. But, the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world — and in the NBA — forced league commissioner Adam Silver to suspend the season until further notice.
The decision came after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on Mar.11. Since then, players like Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell and Marcus Smart, among others, also tested positive.
The Centers for Disease Control recommended canceling all events over 50 people for eight weeks on Mar. 16.
Silver announced that the league would be on hiatus for at least 30 days and that a return in mid-to-late June is a best-case scenario, according to ESPN. Some speculate that the NBA season may start back up in July and go into mid-September.
Overall, league officials are determined to resume the season however they can. As the situation develops, personnel are evaluating different contingency plans to salvage whatever they can as their season hangs in the balance.
As is the case with everything concerning COVID-19, there isn’t a single possibility that can be ruled out. Silver admitted that the remainder of the NBA season could be canceled.
Even if teams are able to play again, fans certainly won’t be allowed into arenas. A majority of the intensity and atmosphere that make playoff games so special come from the fans. Sitting among 20,000 plus people as players look to further solidify their legacies is an experience of a lifetime.
The reaction of a live crowd to a game-changing play is what makes moments like Lillard’s 2014 series-clinching three-pointer against the Houston Rockets so special. The roar of the crowd is what aspiring basketball players chase — many even pretend to hit game-winners in their alley or backyard.
Though there is a strong possibility that the season goes on, it won’t be the same NBA we’ve grown to love. Outside of sneakers squeaking against hardwood floors, players communicating and announcers commentating, there won’t be much life outside of what we see on the court.
While seeing the Lakers and Clippers once again battling at Staples Center would bring joy to almost every basketball fan, the absence of the crowd would remove some of the aura that made their meetings this season so special.
If a champion does emerge this season, it’ll be yet another storyline in an NBA season full of them.