The NBA had the misfortune of being in the midst of its season when a global pandemic put a halt to all things, sports and otherwise. As time went on and it became clear resumption was not in anyone's immediate future, the discourse became focused on the validity of this year's championship. If the season does not get cancelled and the league figures out a way to finish the year with a team named champion, how much credit can said team really be given?
Everyone has been given a free rest period to get healthy, but a good portion of the players haven't touched a basketball in months. "You only won because your superstar got healthy!" vs. "We only lost because our superstar wasn't in a groove!" will become the constant back-and-forth between fans. In our very own Slack chat, we came to the conclusion that whatever team ends up with the Larry O'Brien Trophy will inevitably have an asterisk next to their name in the history books in the minds of fans everywhere.
Given that everyone has been more or less equally impacted, I don't think it's entirely fair to discount any team's achievement of winning the title. But life isn't fair, and since this is an unprecedented situation (as we are constantly reminded), I accept this foregone conclusion that a lot of people will insist on that asterisk, with some fairly legitimate reasons backing up their argument.
I am, however, partial to Mike Greenberg's opinion, shared on Monday's Get Up. Greenberg argues that winning a championship after a pandemic shut down the world is actually more impressive and should count more in the minds of fans than a championship won during normal times.
"I might argue that, if you look at the totality of where we are right now, you could almost argue this will be one of the greatest championships ever won, not one of the least important," said Greenberg. "To overcome everything it will take to overcome this, to play under the circumstances that we would assume these would be played, and for, I think, the return of the sport to have the meaning I believe it will for the fans of the game and even beyond ... I wonder if this won't feel like one of the greatest championships that we've ever seen, not one of the least important."
A fairly compelling argument. Winning a title this year will be difficult for entirely different reasons than any title run in the past and (hopefully) any title run in the future. On a personal level, I will definitely be investing a lot of emotional capital into seeing someone raise the trophy, no matter who it is, because the sheer ability to put on enough games to reach that end would indicate a much more positive outlook on the world than right now. From that perspective, this championship will have more value to me than perhaps any other.
But it will be impossible to quell arguments about an asterisk from a basketball perspective. Which is unfortunate. Still, maybe Greenberg's sense is right and everyone will be so happy to see somebody win a game that others will neglect to remind us why the circumstances should force us to consider it less than legitimate.