The NBA’s playoff bubble continues to entertain fans as the COVID-19 altered season progresses toward a Finals unlike any other in the history of the sport. The presence of virtual fans on the courtside-projected screens, new camera angles now that media teams can move around the court more easily and overall surprise with certain series have given fans new aspects to appreciate about the league even though they’re unable to be present for the action.
The bubble, located at Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, has allowed players from all teams to interact with one another and produce non-basketball related content for fans to enjoy. Players such as Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers have been active on social media by “sniping” one another, where they share videos of them sleeping poolside or just jamming out in the facilities’ halls. Fans have been thrilled to get such an inside look into players’ lives and their general interactions with one another, bringing these superstars of basketball down to earth by showing that they are genuinely normal people. Even during a global pandemic, these famous basketball players can enjoy pulling pranks on each other, playing video games, and even provide a forum to unite people on current social justice issues.
The league has also implemented jersey customization for its players, with players now allowed to choose from a list of 29 NBA-approved phrases to display across the top of the backside of their jerseys, where their names would typically be. A number of players have chosen to wear statements like “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George” on their jerseys in an effort to show solidarity with the current social movement against societal injustices and systemic prejudices that have existed in the United States since its founding. The diversity of American sports over the past century, going back to the days of Jackie Robinson and Earl Lloyd breaking the color barrier in the 1950s, has provided an additional platform for Black men and women to voice their concerns and rally support toward social injustice within our society.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, widely considered as the face of the league, has been quite adamant about the players and league acting as leading examples in the fight against police brutality and systematic racism enacted against not only Black people but minorities in general. Players have consistently worn T-shirts in their pre-game warm-ups with statements that call for justice for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, to name a few, while additionally reinforcing the ideals that inspired former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel for the national anthem all those years ago.
Though the players had a brief boycott of the league, lasting two days, unification between players, owners, and league executives to support the Black Lives Matter movement has resulted in the league providing donations and contributions toward the movement and related organizations. With the highest percentage of minority players within a league among the major sports, the NBA remains at the forefront for social justice and continues to unify fans and empower the movement toward equality for all.