‘The Last Dance’ Review, Recap, and Reaction

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

The 5-week, 10 episode docu-series on the greatest run by a team in a decade in the history of sports, concluded today, with the ending being capped off with the 1998 NBA Finals victory by the Chicago Bulls to win their 6th championship in 8 years, thus completing ‘The Last Dance,’ which was what coach Phil Jackson called this last year quest for the dynasty. So much happened behind the scenes and off the court that we really did not know until now, and the fact that we got the chance to capture all of that and see Michael revisit and talk about these moments was truly remarkable. There are so many big pieces to the ‘98 Championship run from so many different past seasons, whether it be playing against Dennis Rodman and losing to him and the Pistons constantly and then eventually recruiting him to the team, and also Jordan having retired for baseball, then coming back and getting back in shape, Scottie Pippen’s role, Jerry Krause’s ignorance, MJ’s winning mentality being described as ‘disrespectful,’ and so much more. Here is the big review, recap, and reaction all-in-one to all the events, details, decisions, descriptions, and much more, of how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out to be successful, both as the ‘98 season, and as the critically-acclaimed docu-series.

Saransh’s Reaction

Michael Jordan’s Competitive Nature

The competitiveness of Michael Jordan is second to none not just amongst basketball players, but amongst athletes. Whether it was an NBA Playoff game, golfing with his dad, or just a simple ‘coin toss across the room’ game with the team security guard like in Episode 6, everything was a competition to Mike. The most impressive thing about his competitive nature was what motivated him to compete at such a high level. Sometimes it was as simple as just losing, like it was for him against Detroit and Orlando, seeing them celebrate in Chicago and winning against him in a series, but sometimes it was just one action or comment by someone that was their downfall, and Michael’s rise. When Charlotte stole a game from Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference in 1996 and B.J. Armstrong talked a little trash, it was over for Charlotte. The next 4 games went to Chicago and they even swept Orlando in the Conference Finals.

Then there was the side of Jordan which I think a lot of people were surprised to see and hear about, which was the ‘not-so-nice guy’ side of him. The stories of him at practices are honestly as legendary as you can think of. He punched Steve Kerr after a practice after Kerr did not back down from him when Jordan got mad at Phil Jackson for putting Kerr on him and making fun of him. He then proceeded to apologize and talk it out on the phone with Kerr, and as they were both competitive guys, they understood why it got heated. But even as great as Michael was, there were still people that did not like his ways as a teammate. Former Bulls Point Guard John Paxson talked about how he would be scared at times, and Power Forward Horace Grant apparently could not eat after games because Jordan did not let him. But at the end of the day, this made Jordan the greatest, the tough love. It was so hard for him to talk about his teammates, that he started tearing up talking about it and hearing about how some of his teammates felt sometimes. But in the end, the hard truth was that it was his way of gaining trust of them, and making them realize what he expected of them. If he did not go so hard on Kerr, Jordan would not have trusted him to take the Finals-winning jumper, he would not have trusted Scottie Burrell to be such a great role player, or Dennis Rodman to go out and skip practices, or even let guys like Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who got overlooked, be vital pieces of the team in every title run. What made Jordan so great was that he involved his teammates through his trust in them and instilling his mental fortitude into them, and if you did not want that, you did not have to play with Michael and enjoy the great journey.

The Legend of Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr was a man who came from a humble beginning. Kerr was born into a family of UCLA professor Malcolm Kerr, and eventual professor Ann Kerr. As they were both professors, Steve’s family had Steve and his brother very academically-minded and focused, as the only time the TV would be on from Monday through Thursday would be for big basketball games. Malcolm being at UCLA, loved basketball and got Steve into it by taking him to UCLA games, and at that time, the John Wooden coaching era was going on, and the greatest college basketball teams ever were there for Steve to witness live and in-person. Steve played all through high school as well, but did not receive offers until the very last minute, when Arizona offered him a scholarship. At this time, Malcolm had gone to American University at Beirut, along with his wife and Steve’s brother. However, the story of Malcolm being shot and killed was truly heartbreaking, and really drove Steve to be the person and competitor that he is. 

When Kerr got to Chicago, he brought that competitiveness that he gained that drove him after having lost his father, into the championship culture of Chicago. He challenged Jordan, did not back down, did not let himself get brought down by Jordan’s competitive edge at practice, which sometimes Jordan took too far, including the time he punched Steve. From that time forward, however, their trust levels and understanding of each other was like no other. It led Steve to be trusted by Jordan to hit the Finals-winning shot in ‘97, just like MJ trusted John Paxson in ‘93 to do the same thing, whom Steve learned from and mentored. He not only won his rings with Chicago, but also in San Antonio as a player in 2000 and 2002, and a coach of the Golden State Warriors dynasty from the past 5 seasons. All in all, Steve’s competitive edge and love for basketball came from his father, who instilled in him the game, life values, and a hard-working nature into Steve.

Phil Jackson’s Resilience, Even When MJ Left

I think it is taking it a bit too far to say that Phil Jackson was overlooked throughout this whole run, but the work he did definitely can get a bit lost in the shadows when your players are as good as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Jackson was asked to make the Chicago Bulls into NBA Champions after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had been asked to make them relevant. He took over as the head coach in 1989 after Doug Collins was fired in Chicago, which, given the success he brought to Chicago, where he took the team from nothing to the Eastern Conference Finals with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the firing was a bit surprising, but Collins had been with the Bulls for a while, so therefore warranted his way out the door. Jackson took over the team when they were very close to ending the dynasty of the Detroit Pistons, and in his first year, he nearly did that. Had Game 7 been in Chicago and not Detroit, Jackson would have ended the dynasty in his first year with the Bulls, but the next year, Eastern Conference Finals rematch yet again, the Bulls swept, and won the 1991 NBA Finals over the Lakers, and then proceeded to win in ‘92 and ‘93. Then, out of nowhere, Michael Jordan retires.

Jackson did not back down or let Jordan’s retirement get in the way of him coaching this team. The team might have lost the greatest to ever play the game, but the team was pretty darn good even without Jordan. In 1994, the team won 55 games and if it were not for a blown call in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, they could have tried for their 4th straight championship. The year after that, the Bulls struggled a bit, but getting Jordan back got them a healthy seeding in the playoffs, but Orlando stole the series thanks to Horace Grant, the former Bull. He then allowed Jordan to be able to retrain his body back into basketball form and he helped the team add talent, such as Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, and they helped go 72-10 and win the NBA Finals, and start another 3-peat. And then he did it again, going 3-peat with LA from ‘01-’03, and back-to-back in ‘09-’10. Phil Jackson is, in my mind, the greatest basketball coach of all-time, and it all started not when he won his first 3-peat with Michael, but the seasons he endured without him.

Nikhil’s Reaction

The 1992 Olympics Dream Team

For the first time, the United States sent a team of mainly NBA players to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to compete in the Men’s Basketball tournament. This allowed the likes of Jordan, Bird, and Johnson to play on the same team, and form the inevitable Dream Team, the likes of which has gone down in history as one of the most legendary teams ever. What came as an initial shock was the exclusion of Isiah Thomas, and the sports media at the time associated Jordan’s icy relationship with him as a defining factor of this decision. Jordan, when interviewed for the filming of the documentary stated that he had no influence on the formation on the team, but did concede that had Thomas been selected, the flow and camaraderie of the team would have changed. Regardless, the cohesion of the team that did end up competing in Barcelona was second to none, and this is what elevated them above the rest. Their practices were some of the most competitive in existence, and this culminated in the infamous scrimmage in Monte Carlo. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan captained their respective sides in an anything-goes, trash-talking, no-holds-barred grudge match. At one point Magic’s team was up 8, and he felt the need to tell Jordan that if the famous ‘Air Jordan’ didn’t show up, they were gonna blow him out. As Saransh alluded to earlier, Jordan took this personally, and instantly made Johnson eat his words. He proceeded to score around 10 unanswered points, and won the game for his team. Those within the team recollected the tension in the air during the bus ride home as suffocating, but the instant Johnson cracked a joke with Charles Barkley, the team’s camaraderie rose back to prominence, albeit with Michael Jordan firmly at the helm of the ship. 

During the Olympics, the Dream Team faced off with Croatia, and the newly drafted Bull, Toni Kukoc. There was some friction between Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc, given that Jerry Krause placed a great amount of praise on the shoulders of the Croatian, and seemingly devalued the accomplishments of the current Bulls roster at the time. In the first game against Croatia, Jordan and Pippen seemed to go after Kukoc during the game, shutting him down defensively, and thus making every effort to make Krause look bad. However, the second time around during the Gold Medal game, Kukoc surged back and showed his worth even though they lost. The Dream Team took home the gold, and Jordan’s legacy started to take meaningful shape.

I found it very interesting to hear Kukoc’s side of this story, especially given the context of his situation before arriving in the league. Having hailed from Croatia, at the time a war-torn state of Yugoslavia, he, along with his teammates during the Olympics, all had an amazing amount of strength and focus that Team USA simply didn’t account for. To trash-talk, abuse, and target Kukoc doesn’t really faze him, simply because it isn’t comparable to the fight for his literal will to live. It just goes to show that no one’s story can be understood from a distance, and that everyone has certain traits that make them unbreakable, no matter what the circumstances are.

Jordan’s Stint in the MLB

The tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father in many ways defined Jordan’s career path, starting with his first retirement from basketball. At the time, Jordan’s reasoning was that he had produced 3 championships, and had given everything he had to the city of Chicago, so he figured that since he had no more challenges and no more motivation to play basketball, he should call it quits. The drama escalated and peaked during a White Sox playoff game, during which Jordan was present. The information of Jordan’s retirement leaked during the game, and the swarm of reporters and fans ensued. The media ran rampant with headlines up until the official press conference the next morning, in which Jordan stated that he was at peace with his decision, and also left the door open for anything down the road. What ensued was a list of allegations seemingly connecting the death of Jordan’s father, the presence of his gambling problem, and the progression of his career to his retirement. Some outlets even told a narrative that David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, veiled this retirement as a secret ban from the NBA due to his gambling. This is beyond absurd given that Jordan was the best thing to happen to the NBA financially, socially, and internationally. What is certain however, is that the retirement was of his own accord.

Jordan transitioned to baseball during his retirement period, and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. This was one of his dreams that he had as a kid, and in many ways it follows his father’s dream to play in the MLB. The issue was that since Michael Jordan was such a polarizing figure all over the country, the facilities apparent in the lower levels of the MLB league system simply could not accommodate the amount of hype that he drew in. Due to this he was placed in the minor leagues Double A league, where the sufficient amount of fans could be accounted for. Couple this with the fact that Jordan had not played baseball properly since he was 17, and it was a seemingly disastrous fate. What no one expected however was how good he was. He started out with a 13-game hitting streak, and after a while opposing pitchers started to throw breaking balls rather than fastballs, the latter of which was never thrown for nearly a month. Jordan’s dry spell resulted in a media sandstorm, calling him out on his poor play, and labeling his decision as faulty. The most striking of these was the Sports Illustrated magazine cover of him missing a pitch, and labeled him as an embarrassment. As we all know, this lit the fire in Jordan’s mind, and he kept getting better and better as the season went on, to the point where it was speculated that he could’ve made it to the major leagues. The MLB had a strike that year, so that element of his career was cut short, and thus he returned to Bulls. What can be said however, is that he made a lasting impact in his reputation as the greatest ever.

Krause’s demolition of the Bulls: Good or Bad?

Jerry Krause has been documented throughout the course of the Bulls dynasty as a dictator type of general manager that would put prospective over his current players and even his own family to an extent. When the Bulls won their 6th championship, there was already huge speculation about what the Bulls would do and whether or not the team would get blown up. Jerry Reinsdorf, the team owner, states that he asked Phil Jackson to come back for the next year, which he turned down. He also states, that it would be suicide to keep the players they had due to injury, egos, etc. Jordan retorted that any player and coach would’ve been happy to sign the one-year contract to chase that 7th championship, and states that it’s “maddening” because it definitely could’ve happened. Following the 6th ring, Jackson, Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, and Jordan all left the Bulls organization, and the Bulls embraced a rebuild that can be argued to have progressed to the current-day.

I know that the immediate gut reaction to this is to have let Jordan and the team chase the 7th ring. But just to play devil’s advocate in this scenario, let’s look at the benefits of how things played out. Given that Jordan himself stated that he was physically drained following the season’s end, and that Pippen had struggled with injuries during the Finals run itself, it is almost a guarantee that someone essential to the teams success would sustain a lengthy injury during the season, jeopardizing a Finals run. This along with the fact that some players would inevitably ask for more money, and some key pieces would get moved around due to the nature of the business, all equates to a significantly lesser change of even getting to the endgame, let alone succeeding. In my mind there isn’t anything wrong with how the Bulls dynasty ended, because they went out on top. Doing so cemented their lasting legacy as the greatest dynasty to grace the NBA, and affirms Michael Jordan’s candidacy for the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.

 

 

The Last Dance: Episodes 3 and 4 Reactions

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

Dennis Rodman just casually took a vacation for 3 days in the middle of an NBA season and went to Las Vegas, and when he came back, he went right to work to get back in shape, and no one said a word after that. I mean, can you imagine if a guy in today’s NBA just went to Vegas to vacation and party midseason and no one would care, not even his own team? Social media would have a fun time with that one. Seriously, the way the Chicago Bulls handled Dennis Rodman was what made them the great team that this documentary is based off of. In fact, he was a huge impact to the Bulls’ dynasty even before he was on the Bulls. Before the Bulls, he was on the Detroit Pistons, longtime rivals of the Bulls whom everyone in the East was trying to chase for years, until 1991 when Chicago swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Rodman who made the team the physical, fearful, and tenacious that they were for years, but it was also Rodman whose physical play was counteracted by Chicago and helped them win them gameplan for a way to end Detroit’s run as King of the East. However, the biggest story of that series might not be the fact that Chicago was beginning to start a dynasty of their own, but more so the reaction from Detroit:

Saransh’s Reaction: No Handshakes by Detroit After Getting Swept

What if I told you, that the end of the dynasty was not marked by losing, but by the lack of sportsmanship after it? That, my friends, is the story of the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons and how their dynasty ended. When Detroit realized they were too far behind in Game 4 to win and that the series was over, Pistons players Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas told their teammates to leave the court and not shake hands with Chicago players, and simply just go to the locker room after the loss. After not shaking hands, you can see Laimbeer smugly smiling and shaking hands with a security guard, and Thomas high-fiving fans. So, you have no regrets about the handshakes? Well, Thomas said on Monday on ESPN’s ‘Get Up’ that he does indeed regret not shaking their hands, and that he feels ‘worse’ about it today than he did back then. To be fair, he has had 29 years to think of a response to this question, so it is not like it is surprising to hear him say this. 

When Boston tried not to shake their hands after losing in the playoffs a few years back, Thomas literally pulled Celtics Forward Kevin McHale and forced him to shake his hand, and yet somehow Thomas had the audacity to do what McHale did just years later, except McHale actually did shake his hand.  Still, if you are going to dodge a handshake, do not regret it in 30 years. Bill Laimbeer did not care, straight up. He owned it, and even called Jordan a ‘whiner’ just a few days ago. Jordan, on camera, was seen live laughing at Thomas’ response, called him an a**hole, and his then-teammate Horace Grant called them ‘straight up b**ches’. The rivalry is still primetime TV even 30 years later and we love every second of it, because that hate and rage for each other is still there amongst these guys. What I love about the rivalry is that it is still a rivalry today, everyone still hates each other, and everyone is ready to play ball against each other as if it was in the ‘90s, and play just as hard as they did back then.

Going back to Isiah’s interview on ‘Get Up,’ he made a very interesting comment along the lines of ‘it cost me being on ‘The Dream Team’,’ stating that since Jordan was the main guy whom the 1992 US Basketball Olympic team was centered around. He believes that since Jordan was the centerpiece and the guy that wanted every in on ‘The Dream Team’ idea and wanted to win the Gold in the most emphatic way possible, he assembled a team that resembled such that many thought it was invincible. They were indeed invincible, winning their average game by 30+ points and getting the Gold, but again, Thomas was not a part of it, and he believes it is because of that. The Olympics were just a year after the Pistons were swept by Chicago, so by Thomas’ belief, Jordan may have already been in the process of assembling ‘The Dream Team,’ but even with that being said, it is the coaches’ decisions on which players are part of the team, and the coach of ‘The Dream Team’ was Coach Chuck Daly, who was Thomas’ coach in Detroit. All in all, Thomas is trying to rescue himself from something that he, unlike his Pistons teammates, actually regrets, but is using factors that do not help his case, as reasons for why the rest of his career went south. 

Nikhil’s Reaction: Rodman’s Effect on Chicago

The loose cannon that was Dennis Rodman stated his persona perfectly at the start of Episode 3: “I could’ve been a bomb, I could’ve been in jail, I could’ve been dead.” The antics, the media attention, even the hair are all referenced by himself to be part of the monster he created, and in many ways that monster was equally apparent on the court. However, no one from Rodman’s team seemed to complain when the game was going on; Rodman was integral to the Bulls’ championship run, and it can be said with fair confidence that the team would not have been as successful as it had been without him. He gave them the grit and grind mentality that the likes of Jordan and Pippen didn’t have in excess, and thus, he was the league’s leading rebounder even in an era with the likes of Shaq, Barkley, among others. So it’s hard to imagine such a character starting out his career in Detroit as a shy, quiet rookie that was committed to his rather humble and survival oriented upbringing, especially on a team like the Bad Boy Pistons. And it’s equally as hard to imagine such a timid character having a rebounding IQ higher than most, to the point where Jordan himself cited Rodman as the smartest teammate he’s ever had. But what’s most outlandish is how he turned into the monster referenced before. While with the Pistons, he was found in his truck with a gun at The Palace, and was soon dealt to San Antonio afterwards. 

There he started to push his boundaries, act out and subsequently the outfits, the hair, the piercings, the tattoos followed. The Bulls took him out of this bad situation, and figured that he would thrive under the leadership and respect of Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson, and they guessed right. He fit every need the team needed, and elevated them to the next level. And in the time that Scottie Pippen was out due to injury, Rodman was credited by Phil Jackson with keeping the team together, and continuing in their winning ways. However when Pippen returned, Rodman seemed to return to his rambunctious ways and started to drink and party again. His situation peaked when Rodman requested a vacation, something that NBA players just don’t do. Jackson let him go for an agreed upon 48 hours, and Rodman returned 72 hours later after having been found by Jordan, having satiated his need to let go. From there however, Rodman and the Bulls put their heads down, and never locked back. 

Personally, I never knew of Dennis Rodman’s charisma, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be this wild. His tenure in Chicago in my eyes can be described as always hanging in balance, he could either be one of the best players in the league, or he could be a deranged maniac wishing for a death sentence. In this sense, Chicago was given a national spotlight outside of Jordan, one that wasn’t characterized by greatness. It gave the media something to pick at in terms of the Bulls internal structure, and thus placed WAY more pressure on them to win. The fact that they did in spite of all this shows how legendary the Bulls coaching staff, roster, and culture was. They managed to win even with one of the most captivating characters on their team, and even with all eyes on them.

How Would the NBA Look if it Came Back this Season?

By Saransh Sharma and Anish Dhondi

37 days ago, the NBA was the first American sports league to shut down its current regular season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but as always, Commissioner Adam Silver is thinking one step ahead, which is figuring out how the NBA could be reopened. Many people have speculated as to if the NBA should continue the regular season upon return, go straight to the playoffs, play all games in one state or city, and even the possibility of having teams play with no fans in attendance for the next 12-18 months. The NBA also announced today that they are keeping 25% of the paychecks for every player this season after May 1st. In more player-related news, Utah Jazz players, including most publicly Donovan Mitchell, have voiced their frustrations towards teammate Rudy Gobert and how to deal with the way he handled the Coronavirus situation, and took the whole thing seemingly as a joke before eventually seeing himself and Mitchell get the virus. A lot of ideas have been thrown around, and the recent outreach by US President Donald Trump to reopen the league has people wondering how it could reopen, and which teams could thrive and which teams are ready for big changes. Here is the latest of what is being said about the NBA coming back:

The NBA Has a 25-Day Training Camp, Then Resumes the Season

With the strict quarantine in place in the US, it’s unrealistic for NBA players to continue the regular season with a couple days notice. There must be a detailed month long plan to slowly ease players back into games for their own safety. Many NBA players have had no access to gyms or basketball courts during the quarantine and with the fast-paced current NBA it’s vital that players constantly work to stay in shape for the season to avoid injuries. Although commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA is unable to make any decisions about re-opening until May, there have been proposals like the 25-day plan to be prepared. The first part of this plan consists of 11 day individual workouts so players can ease their way back into shape and prepare for games while maintaining social distancing. Then if the players are medically cleared, the individual workouts are followed by a 14 day training camp where the entire teams can practice. However, the regular season will most likely not resume as normal as a vital part of the game will be missing. The NBA is leaning towards playing the remaining games without fans in attendance. The games would most likely take place in a city with a low coronavirus count. With this proposal all teams and players would have to stay in hotels and continue to practice social distancing. NBA games would be played in a neutral court nationally televised with no home or away advantage and players would continue to be tested weekly. Another thing that is important to consider in this situation is that pushing the NBA regular season back would affect the start of next season. Adam Silver wants to make sure the next season isn’t delayed too far past November and given the current state of the pandemic, cancelling this NBA season is not preferred but it is not off the table.

President Trump and the Commissioners Working for Reopening ASAP

President Trump, like the rest of us sports fans, is missing sports quite a bit, and feels it is essential that we get sports back, as he has stated numerous times this past week about how we need sports to come back. While athletes like LeBron James and Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban would love to have fans present and would do anything in their power to come up with a scenario where fans can safely be brought back into stadiums, the odds certainly do not favor them, and they will have to have their seasons go on without the fans. 

At many press conferences, himself and White House Health Administrator, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have talked about reopening, and just yesterday morning, Dr. Fauci said that there is a very high chance that sports will return this summer, but no fans will be present. The current re-evaluation date for if the country is safe to open up certain businesses such as the NBA is May 1st, and by then, Fauci would like to answer questions such as the reopening of sports then. Fauci’s current idea is that the NBA, along with other leagues, have all the players come to one big city or area where Coronavirus is not a hotspot to avoid players having to travel, have them stay in hotels for the rest of the season, get tested every single week and be surveilled by their team medical staffers, and play the season out in neutral-site stadiums, although with no fans, whether you are playing a home or away game, it will not be noticeable. All games would also be aired to the public at home as normal regular season games would be, yet things such as commentators travelling and camera crews remain to be seen. Either way, assuming that by May 1st these questions are answered by Fauci and his team, the NBA and other sports will be coming our way this summer. 

The Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell Beef

There have been rumors about conflicts between Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The root of conflict originates from Rudy Gobert’s careless acts of touching all of the microphones on the desk mocking the seriousness of Coronavirus. Soon after, Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player tested positive for Coronavirus shutting down the NBA indefinitely. A couple days later reports of Gobert’s carelessness in the locker room arose as he was reportedly touching other player’s stuff and not taking the situation seriously. Donovan Mitchell was later tested positive for Coronavirus, which he assumes most likely came from Gobert, causing tension between the two Jazz stars. Rudy Gobert apologized for his actions however, the two didn’t talk for days and reports called their relationship “doesn’t appear salvageable”. A couple days ago, the media asked Gobert about his relationship with Mitchell and he said “It’s true that we didn’t speak for a while after this, but we spoke a few days ago,” and he continued that they’re “both ready to go out there and try to win a championship for this team.” Gobert also talked about not all relationships being perfect but he and Mitchell have the same goal for this thriving Jazz team to win a championship. We don’t know if the media is blowing their beef out of proportion or if Gobert is downplaying the situation. However, the Jazz organization has stated that they currently don’t plan to part ways with either Gobert or Mitchell in their attempt for a championship.

Should the NBA Pay the Players Regardless of Season’s Outcome?

By Saransh Sharma & Nikhil Pradeep

With the NBA currently suspended due to the current Coronavirus outbreak, there has been talk about whether or not the season will come back at all, as many players and owners are trying to push to come back as late as September, play with no fans, and then start the next season at Christmas (which could become a permanent change). There is even talk about going straight to the playoffs and finishing the season that way, not giving teams that are just outside the playoffs a chance to fight for their way back in. The problem with that is that most teams have only played around 65 games, and the last 17 games would give them the chance to come back, but with the problem of coming back late to finish the season, TV deals, fan and player safety, and much more, it seems as though there is still too much speculation and not enough evidence to predict a true decision. Here are the scenarios the NBA could go through, and how it would affect the players:

The NBA Enforces the ‘Force Majeure’ Rule

The ‘Force Majeure’ Rule is a rule in which the CBA of the league enforces a 1% salary loss per game cancelled during the events of a circumstance such as an epidemic or pandemic. For this to happen, the entire NBA season would have to be cancelled. The problem being right now is that the NBA does not want to have to deal with this in May or June if they still have not come to a decision about how to handle the remainder of the season. If they have not reached a resolution on cancellations of some sort, the result will be dealing with players getting restless and losing belief in the system being used to handle the situation at hand. Also, by that point in time, players would demand the option to keep their entire salary, or at least have the authority to negotiate their pay cuts in a different way. The NBA needs to find the solution soon before players get restless, and enforcing a ‘Force Majeure’ will definitely be something that Commissioner Adam Silver will want to spend more time trying to decide, as opposed to deciding to cut the regular season, which can be done as soon as right now. Also, it is important to note the impact that Adam Silver had on American sports, as him suspending the NBA season led to the near-immediate suspension of many other sports leagues in the US.

Cutting Player Paychecks

The other option the league can explore is to enforce a firm direction in their handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and create a concrete plan to cut player salaries starting on a specified date. While this would create some backlash from players, media, and even fans in a way, it makes sense on the NBA’s part in order to minimize the effect of the virus to the extent that they can control. This move also makes sense looking at the current economical impacts the virus is having on pretty much any sports league at the moment: they are losing revenue at a rate never seen before. The lack of activity shuts down any sort of sports related retail, stadium-dependent jobs, and ALL fan revenue as well, the latter of which is the real killer in this scenario. According to Shams Charania on Twitter, the NBA has proposed to the NBPA a 50% paycheck reduction starting on April 15th. As expected, the NBPA counter-argued this proposition with a 25% cut starting sometime mid-May. From the standpoint of a broke college kid like myself, NBA players already make a lot of money as is, and the more prominent figures already give up a good portion of their salaries to endeavors that aren’t hell-bent on benefiting themselves. The 50% paycheck reduction is then the best course of action, and one that in my mind the NBA should implement as soon as possible. Whichever route the NBA takes, a few things are for sure: cuts are most likely going to happen, the League is in for a fairly large monetary loss, and basketball isn’t coming back anytime soon. What matters now is how well they handle the situation, as the NBA in many ways sets the global standard in league operations, and could cause a domino effect for other leagues to follow in the same footsteps.

 

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Sporting World and its Fans?

The current pandemic of coronavirus that has occurred has truly changed the future of sports as we see it for 2020 and beyond. The NBA decided to have a hiatus after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, which then led to many NCAA Conference tournaments being cancelled, which led to March Madness being cancelled. Then, the MLB had their season start postponed for at least 2 weeks, and the MLS has been shut down for at least 30 days. Around the world, the Premier League has been shut down until April after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Coronavirus. The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, LaLiga, Champions League, Europa League, and all country-run tournaments have been shut down until April. Not only has the sports world been affected, but the real world as well. Currently, many of the States in the US have gone into States of Emergencies, colleges are online for the rest of the semester, and in places like Italy, you cannot leave your house unless for an emergency. Here is what the effects of what has transpired will be, and what more we can expect to happen, not just in our country, but throughout the world:

Did NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Save Sports As We Currently See It?

I do not believe many people would have thought that sports being shut down in the United States was even imaginable if it were not for Adam Silver having suspended the NBA. The important thing to realize is that Adam Silver did the best thing possible by suspending the NBA season. The importance of keeping the players, coaches, front office, team staff, media, and fans safe is far more important than the remaining 20+ regular season games plus playoffs. Not only did Silver suspend the season, but he already came up with a plan for how players and teams must react over the ‘minimum of 30 days’ hiatus.

The reason why it is important to note how important this gesture was by Adam Silver is the fact that every major league in our country followed suit. The NCAA Conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments and all other sporting tournaments, as did the NCAA with March Madness and their championships, the MLB postponed their start by at least 2 weeks, the MLS and NHL shut down for a month, and the NFL, while their season is over, is discussing ways to change the NFL Draft. Also, multiple tennis tournaments supposed to happen in the US have been cancelled, and now even the French Open, and The Masters’ have been postponed.

Did Rudy Gobert Also Contribute to Saving Sports Now?

I know a lot of people have been giving Gobert a lot of hate for how he handled the situation and for originally taking the whole notion of Coronavirus and social distancing as a joke, but he has since owned up to it, made public statements, and donated money in order to let people know that this is very serious indeed. But if GObert did not get Coronavirus, Silver wouldn’t have suspended the NBA season and no leagues would have followed (at least in the United States). So, indirectly, Rudy Gobert did help out with that. But this should be a lesson to everyone to practice social distancing, keep your hands to your own belongings, and if you do touch someone else’s belongings, to wash your hands and clean the things that you use frequently.

Will and When Will the 2020 Olympics Happen?

Honestly, while I do think the Olympics will happen, the question is of when. There is currently talk of many Olympic qualifiers being cancelled (not even postponed), such as the 2020 Euros and Copa America for soccer now happening in 2021. As of this past week, the Olympics are scheduled to go on as scheduled, but the talk of postponing them is very serious. Honestly, I think the best option is to hold the Olympics in 2021 after all the qualifiers which are now getting postponed to 2021 are happening.

How Would the NFL Draft Take Place?

So, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the NFL Draft was set to take place in Las Vegas at the Fountains of Bellagio, but now no one seems to know what is going to be the alternative option. Players and families will definitely be asked to stay home, and the NFL has already said there will be no fans present. I am not really sure what the NFL is going to do about it, but I have seen that they are discussing what to do, as they have already indefinitely cancelled OTAs and free agency visits.

How Do College Athletes Get Affected?

The NCAA had announced a few days back that all spring sports players are getting what is called a ‘Redshirt Corona Year’ (not the official name, but it is the name that spring sports athletes used in order to plead for this to be taken into effect), meaning that now all spring sports athletes will have an additional year of eligibility, and that this lost year will not affect them. So, while academically they can move on, athletically their eligibility will not be affected.

When Will the NBA Come Back, and Will the NFL Be Affected?

The current talks are that the NBA could come back around July and end in August, but whether this means that the regular season will continue or not remains to be seen. NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie suggested that we have a 28-team tournament in replacement of the NBA Playoffs, almost as if we are making the NBA Playoffs like March Madness, and the NBA is taking that into consideration. On a more serious note, the NBA is discussing permanently starting the season on Christmas Day, as they did during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. That season ended like regular in June and the regular season was cut down to 66 games. Whether or not that is the new format of the regular season remains to be seen, but how this season plays out is so vital to the future of the NBA.

As for the NFL, with OTAs now cancelled, the talk of training camp being cancelled as well and going straight into preseason is a very real possibility. Assuming that the statement made from the White House that the Coronavirus lasts until July or August, training camp would be cancelled, and the NFL would have either have the choice of going straight to preseason or skip preseason and go into training camp in order to avoid player injury. With the new 14-team playoff being put into effect this upcoming season, avoiding player injury is more vital than ever, and with a 17-game regular season starting as soon as 2021, this coming season could be a way to see how shortened or no preseason would work out.

A General PSA

As I am writing this, I am currently at home with my family doing my best to practice social distancing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus. This virus is very scary, so I highly encourage everyone to please stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. With many grade school and college students now finishing the rest of their semesters at home, and with many people working their jobs from home, it is imperative that we realize the seriousness of this. Sure, there are times when we will need to go out places and see people and go study or work, but health always comes first. So please, I encourage everyone reading this to please wash your hands constantly, practice best health and hygiene, practice social distancing, try to avoid big gatherings and going traveling or eating out, and most importantly, realize that this isn’t a joke and that we can go on with life, even though these tough times are upon us.

The THRILLogy Continues: Cavaliers-Warriors Part III

On June 4, 2015, the Golden State Warriors played the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, with the Warriors looking to put a storybook ending to their odds-defying season. On June 16, 2015, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals, with the Warriors winning the game and the NBA Finals that year. June 2, 2016, they met for the 2nd consecutive Finals. This one came down to 7 games, with Cleveland winning their first NBA Finals ever, and bringing the city of Cleveland their first championship in a professional sport in 52 years. On June 1, 2017, they will meet again for the 3rd straight year, the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have played each other three consecutive years. Here is some history of the last 2 NBA Finals, and my prediction for who wins it this year:

The History of the THRILLogy

2015: The Golden State Warriors had a league-best 67-15 record, while the Cleveland Cavaliers returned to the playoffs with a 53-29 record in LeBron James’s first year back with the team since leaving for the Miami Heat in 2010. The teams split their season series 1 game apiece, and had an easy path to the NBA Finals. The Warriors won the Finals in 6 games despite LeBron nearly averaging a triple-double in large part due to the fact that Cleveland’s second star, Kyrie Irving, injured his knee in overtime in Game 1, making the Warriors job on defense easy, having one less guy to worry about, since Kevin Love had gotten injured earlier in the playoffs (both would be out for the rest of the playoffs). This win showed the versatility of the Warriors, as league-MVP Stephen Curry had a rough series, but guys like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala stepped up (Iggy was the Finals MVP). This also showed that LeBron James, as inhuman as he played that series (averaging 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game), could not lead the team alone, and if the Cavs were healthy, they could win again if they made it back.

2016: Golden State played even better in the regular season, finishing with a 73-9 record, the best regular season record ever (most wins in a regular season). Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points per game, 6.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game on his way to winning back-to-back MVPs, and becoming the first player ever to win the league MVP unanimously. LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love combined to score an average of 61 points per game to lead their team. Both teams strolled through their conferences, and met again in the Finals. As we know, Golden State blew a 3-1 lead, and the rest is history.

This Year

Cleveland and Golden State started off well, and the Warriors continued it, as they got Kevin Durant in free agency on July 4th. Cleveland ended the season after the All-Star Break with a losing record, and people began to doubt them. The Warriors went 12-0 on their way to the Finals, and Cleveland went 12-1. Now, they meet again and are much better teams. This is the toughest test of LeBron James’ career, but with him on the team, LeBron can easily make this a series. James will outplay Durant, Kyrie will outplay Curry, Tristan Thompson will outplay Zaza Pachulia, and Kevin Love will outplay Draymond Green. So it comes down to Klay Thompson vs. JR Smith, and the benches. The Cavaliers bench has a lot more versatility than the Warriors bench, by acquiring Kyle Korver and Deron Williams in February, and on the Warriors side Klay has been very erratic. Last year, the Cavaliers left guys like Harrison Barnes open on shots to be able to play other guys on defense. This year, that guy will be Klay, as he is only shooting 36%. In the end, LeBron outplaying Durant is the biggest part of the reason that I believe Cleveland will repeat. Cleveland in 7. LeBron is the MVP, possibly the GOAT, and KD goes from potential all-time great to a guy who is a superstar with no credentials who made a weak move to leave the OKC Thunder to go to Golden State, the team that prevented him from going to the NBA Finals last year.