It's been over a week since the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA title. The dust has begun to settle and we now look back upon the Orlando bubble as one of the most remarkable achievements in recent sports history. Such a feat of human engineering seemed impossible in June. But the league and the players worked in concert to pull it off flawlessly.
Now that the season is finally over after nearly a full calendar year, sports media can finally fire up end-of-year columns that look back upon the strangest season in basketball history. The Athletic published one such piece today, asking 20 anonymous NBA agents for their thoughts on the various developments, both basketball and otherwise, from the bubble.
These agents were asked how they felt the NBA handled the bubble and COVID-19. Pretty much every answer praised the league for their handling of the pandemic that threatened to shut everything down each and every day. A few agents, however, took this opportunity to express their thoughts on the NBA's social justice initiative that came hand-in-hand with all broadcasts from the bubble. One agent in particular felt strongly that the league "completely shit the bed" with "all this nonsense." Via The Athletic:
"“They initially did a great job by putting the bubble together and they completely shit the bed with all this nonsense. They really hurt the business … All of this Black Lives Matter stuff … I think that the players are being manipulated into something that they don’t really understand and I think it’s a horrible look for the league and they need to be very clear about the organization, what they stand for … If that’s what the NBA wants to align with, they’re really hurting themselves … They’re not helping the players, they’re hurting the sport. When the ratings are down 30%, who are you helping?”"
I'm sure there are plenty of players who would be very interested in finding out just which anonymous agent thought they were "manipulated" and didn't understand the Black Lives Matter movement.
It's also amusing, in a grim sort of way, that even an agent believes the social justice movement that occurred within the bubble led to a 30 percent drop in ratings. It's impossible to attribute that level of drop-off to any one individual aspect. For every Twitter user declaring they'll never watch basketball again because they don't want politics in their sports, there are thousands of people who didn't tune in because the election is more important to them, or they wanted to watch football instead, or they were too caught up in the literal global pandemic to turn on ESPN.
But that's a discussion for another time. This quote stands out, especially in contrast to a later quote from a different agent who carefully expressed their thoughts that all the action the league took felt like a band-aid instead of working towards tangible solutions:
"“They were, how do I put this? I don’t want to throw my own league under the bus. For instance, the jersey with the slogan on the back, that was great, but why aren’t we selling those jerseys and donating the money to victims of police violence? Yeah, it’s great they have polling places, but a lot of places around arenas have impoverished people … Maybe it’s not stuff they haven’t done, but moving forward they have a responsibility to be those leaders in investing in the communities that these players grew up in and they came from and I hope this moment will help. The NBA has been the most progressive league, done the most, but they need to do more. I don’t know how I could have done better in Adam’s position. I can criticize him here but it’s a tough spot to be in.”"
A tale of two agents. The former better hope they can keep their name unknown because they'll lose all their clients in a blink of an eye if they found out this is what their agent thinks.