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The NBA Finals have begun in Orlando, Florida. Soon enough, there will be a champion named and then will come the avalanche of talk about the validity of the champion.
Plenty will talk about how it should not have counted and recently, six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen said that basketball in the bubble isn’t NBA basketball. While many want to agree with those thoughts, one might want to look a little deeper to see that this. In fact, it may be a tougher championship than any of the ones under regular circumstances.
The biggest thing that everyone talks about is the crowd and how the fans are not there. Plenty of fans have said it makes it an easier atmosphere to play in because no home crowd to pump up the home team and no fans to hassle the road team…but let’s take a different angle on this one.
Those fans pump energy into players on the court, whether they are booing them or cheering them on. With them not there, it is up to the players to create and sustain their own energy on the court at all times. That may sound like something that’s easy from the outside looking in but it isn’t. That’s why you see benches up and cheering and celebrating so much: because without that there would be no energy in the building at all.
Secondly and most importantly, no one is talking about the physical separation in the bubble. Staying focused is easy for most of the players because of less distractions around and they can focus on the games more.
However, that human interaction with family and friends is a basic thing humans need. After a while, that separation can begin to weigh on you. LeBron James recently talked about not knowing how tough it was going to be in there. And knowing how close he is with his family, it has to be on his mind a lot more than many may think.
During a normal playoffs, teams would be traveling to face each other, with the home team getting more games at home and less travel. With all the teams in the bubble, there is no travel at all, eliminating the importance of getting the best record in the NBA. Plane rides and the rigors of travel can weigh on players and with them being in a central location, but less time on planes means one more unavoidable condition is removed, potentially leveling the playing field.
The bubble may seem easy to those outside of it, but it has been a trying time for those that have been there all the way up to the end. For whoever the champion winds up being, they will have earned it and there should never be any asterisk by it at any point in time. With the additional circumstances added to the equation, you could actually say this championship would deserve more praise.