NBA players adapt to life in the bubble as finals near

As the NBA playoffs continue, there are currently only two teams left in the hunt: Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat and LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers.

It has been an unusually long season as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the league into a decision to create an NBA bubble so that the virus could be contained and limited. This has not stopped the 2019-20 season from continuing and soon crowning a champion.

I do believe that the winner of the NBA Finals will have an asterisk next to their name.

— Nick Taliani, Class of 2022, Allegheny College

According to Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, the bubble arrangement was not ideal in terms of players being able to see their families and loved ones. Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George discussed the mental health struggles he has faced while living in the bubble.

Zach Ioli, ’23, a big fan of the NBA, expressed his thoughts on the bubble and the benefits as well as difficulties with it.

“In my opinion, the bubble was a great idea and saved the NBA from basically being forced to lose a season,” Ioli said. “On the other hand, I think it kind of messed up some competition aspects of the league since players were so close to one another. It almost seemed like a vacation and not something serious.”

Although Ioli was mixed in his feelings toward the NBA situation, he acknowledged that he will be watching the finals and will be rooting for one of the two teams to take home the glory.

“I want the Miami Heat to win,” Ioli said. “I want the Heat to win because Jimmy Butler is the definition of hard work over talent.”

Keegan Cassidy, ’22, shared his thoughts on the bubble, as well.

“I think the bubble is the most logical situation and it’s clear that as far as containing COVID, it is very effective,” Cassidy said. “On the negative side, these players essentially forfeit their freedom of mobility and more importantly are separated from their families.”

Cassidy, a lifelong Boston Celtics supporter, would have loved to see the Celtics’ young core finally win a championship under former Butler University Head Coach Brad Stevens, but he will have to wait until at least next year to realize that hope.

“If the Celtics had won, I would think it’s completely fair,” Cassidy said. “On a more serious note, I think it’s fair to believe that things could have turned out quite differently without the extenuating circumstances.”

As the NBA playoffs continue, thoughts have begun to shift toward the future, and whether or not the next NBA season will need to be set up in a similar type of situation.

“If the NBA must continue to operate this way, in my opinion, the bubble should not be the long-term solution,” Cassidy said.

Nick Taliani, ’22, a Miami Heat fan, expressed positive feelings on the bubble situation.

“I think the NBA bubble is awesome,” Taliani said. “The way that it was designed and the way each component of the game was implemented so that it is as realistic as possible is so cool to me.”

Although Taliani said he is  enjoying the continuation of the NBA season in the bubble, he has thoughts on the NBA Finals this year.

“I do believe that the winner of the NBA Finals will have an asterisk next to their name,” Taliani said. “Although games were played and a winner will ultimately be found, I think they will make it known that the season was shortened and it was not a true NBA season.”

With one more series to go between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, Taliani made it clear who he wishes to take home the crown.

“I want the Miami Heat to win the Championship,” Taliani said. “I have been a Heat fan for a while now and I love their style of play.”

In my opinion, the bubble was a great idea and saved the NBA from basically being forced to lose a season.

— Zach Ioli, Class of 2023, Allegheny College

As the NBA finals kick-off this week, Ioli, Cassidy, Taliani and many others will be watching the games with excitement. Players like LeBron James — on his tenth trip to the finals of the Los Angeles Lakers — and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat will square off against each other for the trophy. The 2019-20 NBA champion will be determined within the next couple of weeks.