Josh Elias | April 6th, 2020
So, as you’ve probably noticed by now, we’re, um, having a bit of a problem at the moment.
I haven’t mentioned it yet because almost every article I’ve seen for weeks has been about it, but we’re in the midst of what’s likely to be the worst pandemic in at least 60 years, a financial collapse that will shatter our economic systems as we know them, and – definitely not worst of all – no basketball.
After a couple weeks of obfuscation and unlikely outward cautious optimism in the meantime, with outlandish ideas to try to save the season being thrown out around the league offices, it does seem like the NBA’s Board of Governors might be finally reaching the seventh stage of grief: acceptance.
We have seen the last basketball that will be played in the 2019-20 NBA season.
Vince Carter has played his last NBA game. His long and storied career began with the first NBA season to experience a delayed start and ended with the first one to be cut short early.
The Los Angeles Lakers won’t get a chance to lift this season’s championship trophy in the memory of their greatest hero and closest friend.
We all, simply as people who love sports, were robbed of so many moments that would’ve stuck in our memories forever.
Imagine last season without Damian Lillard‘s “Bad Shot” to close out the series against Oklahoma City… without Kawhi Leonard‘s Game 7 buzzer-beater with Joel Embiid in his face and what felt like 479 bounces before it finally dropped in… without the agonizing moments directly after the whole world realized Kevin Durant had just torn his Achilles Tendon… without the Toronto Raptors capturing their first franchise title. That’s what we’re living through right now and we’ll never know what exactly it is that we’re missing out on.
When the league officially announces the remainder of the season is canceled, whether it’s tomorrow or if it’s in May or even June, there are only two feasible options.
Either there will be no champion and we’ll enter 2020-21 with the Raptors defending their title yet again or Milwaukee will be given the title of Champion, with the biggest asterisk imaginable next to it in the record books until decades in the future when this season’s champion will be precisely as important to most basketball fans as the winner from 1978 is today.
I know, it kind of feels like everything that’s happened this season has all been for nothing. Like 971 professional basketball games played this season ended up just being moot.
What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be the case?
No, I don’t have a magical solution that can give LeBron James the chance to continue his late fight for a shot at what could’ve been his fifth MVP award. I can’t conjure up the fervor fanbases would’ve had for legendary moments that will never happen. (Although since the entire league is a hypothetical now, my choice is to imagine that Bruno Caboclo was going to hit the game-winner of the 2020 NBA Finals. Fran Fraschilla was right about him, just off by a year.)
What I do have is moxie – moxie, for the record, being an entirely useless term that deserves no definition but perfectly describes the act of firing a man and replacing him with a bear, something I have done and will do again.
Speaking of bears, I want you to think of where you might find a bear.
No, not Montana, try somewhere about 87% more communist. Yes, that’s right. Then go back in time 75 years and westwards precisely one dictator.
If you’ve followed my instructions properly, you’ve found yourself thinking about a certain Austrian art school dropout.
If so, congratulations! You’ve won yourself a 0.0001% increase in undeserved self-esteem.
Why bring up the fairly irrelevant, in basketball terms, central European country of Austria, you ask?
Aside from the fact that they produced Jakob Pöltl, a man who desperately needs to be nicknamed “The Snapping Töltl”, their top soccer league has a system that I personally believe you will either find moderately interesting for almost seven seconds before dismissing it out of hand or will hate so much to the point of taking personal offense to it.
The Österreichische Fußball-Bundesliga has a somewhat convoluted format in which each of their 12 participating teams play each other twice – once at home and once away – and then split into two groups, one of which competes for the championship and one of which competes to avoid relegation.
Each team then goes on to face off against the other five teams in their group once more at home and once more in hostile territory, but with a twist. They don’t simply get to hold onto their record from the previous stage when all teams were involved.
Like in almost all professional soccer leagues, they have a points system where you get three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero for a loss. And between the two competition stages, each team’s points total is cut in half.
That last part is what I’m suggesting the NBA should considering co-opting. The next season is likely to be shortened in its own right anyway, so why not make this season worth something? Let’s take the results of the first 63 games of this season (the highest number that all 30 teams have played), cut the number of wins in half for each team, and have everyone play 50 games next year, with their new rosters.
Adam Silver does, after all, seem desperate to copy European soccer leagues, between implementing jersey sponsorships a couple years back and endorsing the possibility of a mid-season tournament.
Look, I’m not saying it’s a perfect idea.
The only perfect idea is cryogenically freezing all of the best athletes we produce until the year 40912, in which we have them all compete in a universally-sensoscreened (you’ll understand in a few dozen millennia) basketball season hosted in the Elon Musk Memorial Stadium in Central Gnarfnkyuhn, Mars.
But it is something. And while “something” is generally the bare minimum for quality of ideas, it’s more than we’re getting right now.
Also, I urgently needed something to write about, and this was technically that. And I may also be experiencing fishtank cleanser-related hallucinations.
Questions and comments? Are you geographically illiterate and want to yell at me for ushering in kangaroo courts to the NBA? firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Josh Elias on Twitter @thejelias
Main Credit Image:Embed from Getty Images