The NBA doesn’t like to cancel games. It’s a winter sport played indoors in arenas with roofs. Only twice in recent memory have games been called off: in October 2012 when SuperStorm Sandy devastated New York and left the subway system barely function, the Nets-Knicks game, the official opening of Barclays Center, was postponed. Then, a year and a half later, after the Boston Marathon Bombing in Boston, the NBA canceled a meaningless late season game between the Celtics and Pacers. The game was not re-scheduled.
In February 2010, the NBA declined to cancel a Nets-Bucks game at the Meadowlands during a blizzard. A little more than 1,100 fans showed and very invited down to the expensive seats.
So, in short, the league’s default position, unless public officials ask based on safety concerns, is to play the games. That philosophy seemed to guide the league Sunday when the full slate of games, starting at 4 p.m. ET, went on as scheduled. While purists might suggest that that the show must go on or argue that any cancellation could lead to a bad precedent, there is increasing consternation that the league played the games hours after Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in suburban L.A.
Kobe was, as Kenny Atkinson said, iconic, but more than that, he was friendly with many of the league’s players. For those who didn’t know him, he was still a role model because of his skills, hard work and charismatic personality.
“I’d rather keep my opinion on [them playing] to myself on what I thought about that,” said an emotional Atkinson, seemingly not wanting to talk his way into trouble.
Of course, one Nets player, Kyrie Irving, felt he couldn’t go on. Bryant had mentored him, befriended him. For his part, Kyrie idolized him, modeled his game after him. It’s been said no young NBA player was as close to Bryant as Irving.
“We have a player that was very close to Kobe. Our thoughts and prayers are with him also,” said Atkinson. “Just a tough time for the NBA and all of us.”
Should anyone have played? Should the NBA have decided this was a time to break tradition?
Garrett Temple, the Players Association vice president, said he thought the games should have been postponed and the schedule makers given the challenge of reworking things.
“I’ve been a part of this league long enough to know the business side and how it rolls. There were rumblings of maybe canceling them. But I say yes and no,” Temple said. “The type of person he was and what he meant to this game, meant to this league, it would be very understandable if the games had got canceled.”
Temple admitted though that the game, a loss for the Nets, was not high quality.
“We were in a fog. It was like everybody was in a daze. I know I was. You try to listen to the game plan, but obviously got something else weighing on your mind,” Temple said.
In fact, Spencer Dinwiddie, who was close to Bryant, thought the games would be canceled.
“I did. I thought they were going to get canceled,” Dinwiddie said. “But the NBA is a business, and I understand there’s probably logistical issues with clearing arenas and things, so they chose not to. You come to work. We’ve got a job to do. So just like everybody else.”
Aside from the challenge or rejiggering the schedule (and not giving one team or another an advantage or disadvantage), there was the issue that fans were already on their way to the 4:00 p.m. starts. That said, though, the league may have hurt itself at the end of bad, bad day.
- NBA curiously holds Nets-Knicks game after Kobe Bryant’s death - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kobe Bryant’s death left the Nets in a daze - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News