College basketball coach. Go to Thehelpside on the web for blogs, podcasts, and videos.
With the Corona-virus shutting down all sports in the near, and possibly long-term future, I wanted to take a look at the repercussions of the virus on the sports world.
First, and most obviously, the shutting down of sports has stopped the completion of the NBA, NHL, and the MLB seasons. This means that in the history books, there will be a blank for the 2020 champions in each of these sports. These sports shutting down have cost the leagues, owners, and players, millions upon millions of dollars. In addition, many businesses near these arenas count on the influx of people during these sporting events to generate income they count on year after year with having certain amounts of home games for their teams.
Next, players and organizations have lost the opportunity to win a championship. No matter the sport, it is so hard to put together a team that has a chance to win a championship. First, lets start in the NBA. For the past 4-5 years there have only been a couple teams each year that had realistic chances to win the NBA championship. It was basically the Warriors, whatever team Lebron was on, and one or two more teams who hoped they could upset one of these two teams. This year, realistically, the Clippers, Lakers, and Bucks, were the only teams that could win the title. The Lakers traded away a bunch of assets and picks to get Anthony Davis, and sign veteran players around him and Lebron. The Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and traded away young talent to get those guys. During the season they made more moves and acquired more veteran players on short contracts in order to go for it and try to win now. They traded away a lot of future potential for the opportunity to win it this year. And in the East, the Bucks have not been to the finals in decades, and there they were sitting with the best record in the league, on pace to challenge the Warriors record of 73 wins, with no one really challenging them in the east, and now its gone for all of them. These teams are willing to sacrifice the long term potential of the teams for this chance to win right now, not worrying about the consequences of trading for older players, trading away draft picks and young players and leaving their franchises decimated for what could be ten years, for the chance to win one title right now.
Let’s move to college basketball, where winning March Madness is the dream of every Division 1 team. In the NBA your chances to win a title are 1 in 30. In Division 1 basketball, its around 1 in 320. So putting together a championship roster is even more difficult. Not to mention that unlike professional sports, many of the players on that roster will be gone the next year either entering the professional ranks, or simply because they were seniors and their time is up. This year teams like Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Florida State all probably felt like they had great chances to make deep runs in the tournament. But how about teams like San Diego State and Dayton, both of which were top 10 teams for the first time in a long time. It is so hard for those type of smaller schools to put together rosters that can compete with teams from the power 5 conferences, and people thought those two teams could actually win the whole thing. And that opportunity is now gone. Those players will move on, and those schools will have to start over and try and build again. Not to mention the coaches at these colleges, where winning a national championship is so hard. Some of these coaches were looking to win their first title, while some were looking to add another and cement their legacy. While other coaches use success in the tournament as an opportunity to springboard their coaching career and move up in the coaching world.
Everyone knows the story of Dan Marino, young star quarterback for the Miami Dolphins who took them to the Super Bowl in just his second year in the NFL, and people said its ok that he lost, because he would be back many times in his career. And he never got back. In addition to these teams missing out on an opportunity, individuals lost opportunities to get that elusive ring as well. Some veteran players may have had their only shot at a ring when signing with one of these teams, and now that opportunity may be gone again. Older players especially may have lost out on that last chance to make one more run at a title. When you think about some of the all-time greats in any sport, greats at the end of their careers, you feel bad that they will not have that chance to get one more ring, or, get that first ring.
When I think about aging players, of course the first person that comes to mind is Lebron James. But I also want to include players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Alex Ovechkin, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and many more who are missing out on opportunities to cement legacies. These athletes don’t have many chances left to win titles and missing out on the opportunity is devastating to them as they watch their primes slowly slip away. Twenty years from now, when talking about the best who did it in any sport, these players are going to have lost that championship opportunity and therefore their resumes will not be as complete as they could have been.
Because I am a basketball guy and this is a basketball blog, I want to talk a bit a Lebron James and the impact this has on his career. First off let me say that if rings are #1 in importance when determining all time greats, then we can’t be friends. Because you don’t understand sports. I blogged about my rankings before which you can check out on here in a previous article. Having said that, Lebron James, and every player for that matter, are putting together a resume for their legacy and career. And that resume includes all time stats in every category, awards, trophies, etc. Lebron was averaging around 25 points per game. Lebron is chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time leader in points in NBA history, and is on pace to catch him. But not if he doesn’t get to play for the next year, or two years. Lebron will keep aging and they won’t just add those points on and say, “Well he would have scored these points.” No. He will lose the opportunity to become the greatest scorer in NBA history. Lebron is leading the league in assists, he is one of the top assist leaders in NBA history. He is now losing that opportunity at over ten assists per game to compile these statistics. In every category of individual statistics, Lebron is losing opportunities to add to his all-time numbers. Lebron is losing opportunities to win games, which will go on his all-time record. He is losing the opportunity to win playoff series, which is a stat that is counted. But most importantly, he is losing the chance to win a ring.
As I said before, if you think that rings are the most important thing in legacy, then you don’t understand sports. You don’t understand teammates, opponents, etc. And that’s why people who think Michael Jordan is the greatest will always have that argument. It doesn’t matter how good Lebron is or Kobe is or the next guy to come up is, if they lose one NBA finals, then they can’t be better than Jordan. Its interesting that people use that argument for Jordan, but somehow Tom Brady is the GOAT at QB even though he has lost three Super Bowls. But I digress. The fact remains that even though it is down my list, the number of rings does of course have significance. And at this point Lebron is losing this opportunity. The Lakers are the best team in the West, and even though the Bucks have a better record, they play against weaker competition in the East and the Lakers are clearly the favorite to win. This would have given Lebron 4 rings, with three different teams, and move him up the chart for rings. He also misses out on an opportunity for another Finals MVP award, something else to add to his resume. Lebron is 35 years old, and even though he doesn’t seem to be losing a step, he is. The athleticism is a little less, the strength is a little less, and he has made up for it by becoming a smarter player. But it is slowly catching up, the league is slowing catching up, and his time is coming to an end. And I hate the fact that he is losing out on this opportunity, when there just aren’t that many left in his career. And when his time in the NBA is over, and resumes are compared, there will be no argument that he lost a season to Corona-virus, no one will give him another ring for 2020 even though he didn’t win it. No one will add on to his career statistics to make up for this lost time.
The last thing is the future of the NBA and the future of sports in general. I have mixed feelings about what I think is going to happen. Of course, everyone in the world is hoping that a vaccine is created and this Corona-virus is just a blip on the radar in the world’s history. But what if its not? What if it becomes part of our lives as I think it will? How will sports be affected? As a coach myself, I am really worried about Corona-virus not going away. Because sports are fun, and not needed. Sports are contact, sports are large amounts of fans gathered in close quarters. Sports will probably be the last thing to come back in society. Let’s say for instance that the world is quarantined until the middle of the summer and then it seems under control and they let everyone out. But its not gone, its just slowed down. Are people going to pack NBA and college arenas? Are people going to risk their health and the health of their families, especially older members of their families, just to take in a sporting event. Are athletes going to risk catching it from close contact from other athletes? What will happen when, and I say when, because this will happen, then next NBA season is underway, and an NBA player get Corona-virus? Will they shut down the season again? Will they risk endangering all of those players’ teammates, coaches, opponents, etc. just to play basketball? What happens when an older coach dies after contracting Corona-virus? Will the league just say oh well and continue? The fact is that saving one life is more important than playing sports and that is why I am so worried about the future of sports if there is no vaccine. Of course, the hope is that a vaccine is created, or testing becomes over the counter and readily available so people who do get it can self-quarantine until it passes. But at this point neither of those things are options and I see a less optimistic view of the future of sports.