NBA: A letter to fans going through withdrawal during the 30-day hiatus

NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Dealing with withdrawal from NBA basketball? Not sure what to do without nightly double-headers? Here’s a letter just for you to help put things into perspective.

Dear Basketball Fans,

I know this is weird. I was watching the Mavs vs. Nuggets game just like you when I found out that the NBA season was being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was waking up from a quick nap during a lull in the action.

You know that power nap so you can catch the end of the first TNT game without being too tired to stay up for the West Coast matchup. It was at that moment the sense of shock on Mark Cuban’s face matched the astonishment that we all felt.

After coming to the realization that the NBA was actually suspending the season, we were all left pondering what to do now. I cannot recall a time that didn’t have basketball. During the 1998-99 NBA lockout, we still had an NCAA basketball season that resulted in Khalid El-Amin and Richard Hamilton leading UConn to an improbable championship.

The 2011 lockout saw superstars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony take the floor at small gyms around the country.

But this is something new. There’s no distraction from the fact that the COVID-19 virus has left us without any trace of basketball. No TBT Tournament, Big3 or even a Harlem Globetrotters game to give us our fix of hoops.

As a fan of the game, I’m so hard-pressed to fill my weeknight evenings with basketball that I’ve resorted to watching old games on Youtube. Who knew the 1994 Philadelphia 76ers were actually entertaining to watch?

While we wait and see how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is going to proceed, we can take this time to reflect on just how incredible the talent is that we’ve been able to witness this year.

For everyone that called LeBron overrated, you realize how special his 25.7 points a night, 7.9 rebounds and league-leading 10.6 assist per game at age 35 really is. Although no one understands why Ben Simmons doesn’t shoot the ball, it’s no denying that it’s impressive that he excels despite his Achilles heel.

You finally realize that half-man, half-amazing is an understatement when referring to Vince Carter. His rookie jersey is now considered the Raptors throwback uniform, and he’s still dunking in the league.

This NBA season has been incredible. I was looking forward to watching the 76ers try to claw their way out of the East. I was anticipating a serious battle as the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans fought for the eight-seed in the West down the stretch of the regular season. If my NBA Finals prediction of the Bucks vs. Lakers came true, we would certainly be in for a seven-game treat.

While there’s still a chance that we will see all of those stories unfold, it will certainly be with some moderation. There are so many questions to be answered once the 30-day hiatus on the season is lifted. Will teams pick up where they left off on the schedule? Will the number of regular-season games be shortened or do we just go right into the playoffs?

Each potential decision has a series of implications. My biggest concern is that players will be a bit rusty when the action returns. (Think about the first couple of games after the All-Star break). Having said that, I really hope the NBA finds a way to salvage the regular season as sort of a tuneup for high-level playoff basketball.

In the meantime, we all have to wait for this thing out. Playing hours of NBA2k on PS4 brings some level of solace. I’ve gone as far as to revisit music from my favorite NBA stars turned rappers. Whatever you have to do to make it through this time, just remember one thing. As difficult as this must be for you as a fan, imagine how anxious your favorite NBA players must be to get back to the game that they love.

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Best Wishes,

John W. Butler III