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in·teg·ri·ty /inˈteɡrədē / noun
- firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values
- the quality or state of being complete or undivided
Last Sunday, the National Basketball Association completed its 2019–2020 season, with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA championship in the “bubble” campus at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
The season will be remembered forever as one of the most unique sports seasons in history: suspended indefinitely in March, resumed in July in the ingenious bubble environment, with a champion being crowned in October.
No matter how far-fetched an idea as it seemed at the time, the NBA and its players were able to do the work necessary to devise a plan that allowed for basketball to return safely and without straining crucial pandemic resources.
In June, the league laid out the details of all of the operational logistics and protocols that they would need to keep the bubble’s integrity strong, including how the league would handle positive coronavirus results.
Once the participants in the restarted season arrived on campus, the onus on maintaining the bubble’s integrity was put on them. They delivered.
The final numbers: 172 days in the bubble, zero positive cases. That’ll do.
The players and league personnel, not to mention the staff in Orlando, did an amazing job. Like their peers in the WNBA, NHL, and the pro soccer leagues, the NBA bubble campus clean site idea proved to the world that dealing with the virus isn’t impossible and that a blueprint for success can be replicated.
The NBA spent $170 million on this just-crazy-enough-to-work idea. The players and all of the other bubble participants had to spend months away from their families to tackle the extraordinary task of pulling it all off.
But even with the best-laid plans, it required strong leadership, persistence, focus, teamwork, accountability, and mutual buy-in from all parties involved.
In the end, the bubble’s integrity went uncompromised and uncorrupted, and it led to perhaps the most cathartic basketball experience we’ve ever seen.
The Los Angeles Lakers and their fans went through a roller coaster of emotions in 2020, even before the coronavirus pandemic rocked America and threw serious doubt that a champion could be crowned at all. In January, Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (one of the sport’s top prospects in her own right) tragically died in a helicopter crash.
The resilient Lakers aptly honored his memory, bringing an NBA record-tying 17th championship title back to the City of Angels, with LeBron James leading the way and adding another storied chapter to his legendary career.
Even with no fans in the stands, the quality of the game was arguably at an all-time high in the bubble, perhaps without the element of cross-country travel weighing down players after a long and grueling season. With less fatigue and better sightlines in the empty arenas, offenses performed even better than they did pre-bubble, and the entertainment value was sky-high.
As the NBA playoffs were winding down, C. Brandon Ogbunu wrote in The Undefeated about how the NBA managed to make the virus an afterthought:
How the NBA conquered COVID-19
The fact that COVID-19 is a small part of the current NBA conversation is a testament to the success of the NBA bubble…
As the article mentions, the unique environment of thousands of people all living together in the bubble afforded a scientific data goldmine. It not only would’ve made contact tracing remarkably easy if the bubble’s integrity had been pierced, but it was also a big part of the groundbreaking SalivaDirect technology that has become the gold standard for affordable mass testing.
(For more on the SalivaDirect technology, I wrote about it back in Issue #18.)
In Other Words
It was a nice respite to be able to watch these games and take a break from the world outside the bubble. But even as it was happening, I couldn’t help but think about how much better all these sports leagues have faired at responding to the pandemic and helping America get back to normal compared to, you know, the federal government whose job it is to do so.
Obviously, we can’t turn the whole country into one giant bubble, but we can learn a lot from the NBA’s approach to banding together for a common goal.
Keeping the bubble uncompromised and unimpeached is all about integrity. It takes everyone pitching in and doing their part, unselfishly, to keep that integrity as strong as it needs to be to keep the virus at bay, day in, day out.
You need to have leaders of integrity so that others will take it seriously, and the reality is, in 2020, we have more men and women of integrity bouncing balls for a living than we do in the Oval Office, the Cabinet, and Congress.
LeBron James is a man of integrity. Already one of the sport’s greatest and most accomplished players on the court, James was seen in a quiet moment during the championship celebration calling his mother, Gloria, on FaceTime.
LeBron James called his mom right after winning the NBA Championship
Late Sunday night LeBron James picked up his fourth NBA title and his fourth Finals MVP.
The son of a single mother, James struggled in school as a youth and missed a large chunk of his fourth grade school year because of his family moving from home to home as his mother did everything she could to support the family.
The experiences led James to open the “I Promise School” in his hometown of Akron, OH, a public school that is supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation that aims to help at-risk children like James himself once was.
Through his charitable foundation, James is not only funding public schooling for the students, but also bicycles and bike helmets, a no-questions-asked food pantry at the school for students and families, career placement services for both students and parents, and free college tuition to the University at Akron for every graduating student with a 3.0 GPA.
Opened just two years ago in 2018, the early results at the I Promise School have been, well, promising. With students who’d initially scored in the lowest one-percentile for reading and math learning goals, 90% of the inaugural class of third and fourth graders met or exceeded expected learning goals.
LeBron James Opened a School That Was Considered an Experiment. It's Showing Promise.
The inaugural class of third and fourth graders at the school has posted extraordinary results on its first set of test…
The I Promise School is only one of the many charitable endeavors that the LeBron James Family Foundation is involved with, but it is the one that James himself has called his single most important professional accomplishment.
That is certainly saying a lot, considering all of his remarkable professional accomplishments. But when you’re a man of true integrity like LeBron James is, winning basketball games and becoming one of the greatest athletes ever isn’t the be-all, end-all. He still takes it upon himself to enrich countless lives with his charitable efforts, and he still has time to call mom before bedtime.
We don’t yet know when the 2020–2021 NBA season will start or whether it will be in a bubble, multiple bubbles, no bubbles, or a combination of the sort.
But we do know that when it does start, my Brooklyn Nets should be a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Durant, one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, is healthy and ready to suit up for Brooklyn for the first time after missing the entire 2019–2020 campaign. Durant, 32, had surgery in June 2019 to repair a ruptured right Achilles and survived a bout with COVID-19.
Could we have Durant and the Nets squaring off with LeBron and the Lakers? Seeing a team that I root for win something would be a nice change of pace.
Major League Baseball eschewed a bubble and had a tall task on their hands to restart their 2020 season and try to crown a world champion of their own. But the integrity of the sport has held up thus far, with strong protocols and superb discipline from players who have gone above and beyond what was asked of them from the protocols to ensure that the game could go on.
Now, baseball has its final four teams, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves battling for the National League Championship and the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros vying for the American League title.
Next Tuesday, the respective NL and AL champions will begin a best-of-seven series to crown the 116th World Series champion. Regardless of which two teams win the pennants and advance, it should be an entertaining series.
In this most unique season, the league chose to move towards a not-quite-but-sort-of bubble format, with two regions hosting games in two stadiums apiece in the quarterfinal Division Series, without fans in attendance.
In this semifinal Championship Series round, the Rays and Astros are still playing in an empty ballpark in San Diego, but MLB has started to allow fans to attend games again in Arlington, TX, host of the NLCS and World Series.
No more 'fake crowd noise' as fans return to the MLB for the first time since March
Instead of fake crowd noise, baseball stars are reacquainting themselves with some old friends -- fans and the sounds…
Click through to see all of the safety protocols MLB has in place, but the bottom line is that as many as 11,500 fans will be in attendance all this week and next, which has brought a hopeful-but-fingers-crossed vibe to the games.
With all due respect to the league and its many adoring fans, 33 states recorded an increase in coronavirus cases on the same day fans returned.
Meanwhile, 30,000+ maskless fans are able to easily attend rugby matches regularly in New Zealand now, thanks to their strong leadership and community integrity fighting the virus. The country on the other side of the globe has functionally eradicated COVID-19, even after a second outbreak.
New Zealand "beat the virus again," PM Jacinda Ardern says
Auckland will join the rest of New Zealand this week in enjoying no domestic coronavirus restrictions after the city's…
Test rugby resumes with New Zealand-Australia game in front of tens of thousands of fans
New Zealand's All Blacks and Australia's Wallabies on Sunday played the first rugby Test since the pandemic saw…
Maybe there’s just something in the water down there. I certainly don’t envy the job of the politician who has to run against the incumbent Prime Minister.
New Zealand's Election Offers a Glimpse of a Calmer Democracy in the Time of COVID-19
Jacinda Ardern will face Judith Collins in New Zealand elections that could hardly be more different from the U.S…
America is an ever-evolving story. We all have the power to bring our own personal integrity to the table and make our voices heard. With strong community integrity, we can get to where New Zealand is someday.
Do your part. If you haven’t already voted, you can use this interactive ballot tool to get yourself informed on who and what will be on your ballot, from the federal level down to all of the state and local level races, too.
MAKE A PLAN - Vote Save America
Use our interactive ballot tool to help you get smart about everything on your ballot in your state. You can fill out a…
Let’s find a way to be more like the kiwis in New Zealand. The solutions are out there, after all. With a steadfast approach, I believe we will get there.
Here’s to better days, and hopefully, good sports games to keep us company.
Till next week, thanks for reading.
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press — Issue #25: Care
Every week has felt like a year in 2020, and this week has felt like a decade
October 7, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #24: Resilience
Baseball defiantly marches on after early stumbles with the virus
September 30, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #23: Fervent
Paying tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
September 23, 2020