Life in the Basketball and Moral Bubble

The NBA has created a sports and moral bubble.

Posted Aug 18, 2020

For those of you trapped indoors and longing for sports, the National Basketball Association has created a remarkable sensation: an entirely bubble-ized spectator experience. Taking a select number of leading teams whose season was interrupted by COVID-19, the NBA put them under glass in Disney World in Florida to duke out the professional basketball championship. Under hermetically sealed conditions, at a cost of $150 million, the best b-ball players in the world are going at one another tooth and nail.

There are 16 teams left at this stage in the proceedings. Last night, in the league’s “Western” Division opening playoff games, the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers played the seventh-ranked Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks are led by two young European phenoms, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic, who is  21 years old, set a record, scoring 41 points in his first NBA playoff game.

In doing so, he overcame a disastrous start, both for himself and his team, which fell behind from the game’s outset. But, in a dramatic 30-point turnaround, Dallas was leading in the second half. 

Then came the dramatic event that determined the Mavericks’ fate. When Doncic got into a shoving match with the Clippers’ Marcus Morris, teammate Porzingis came in to help Doncic.

Only that violated an NBA no-no: No third parties are allowed to enter a fray. Porzingis was automatically ejected, and the Mavericks went on to lose the game.

For Porzingis, it was a second technical during the game, after he had reacted emotionally to being called for a foul when he thought he had cleanly blocked a shot. Two technical fouls in one game — you’re out.

It doesn’t matter that many observers found both of the foul calls sketchy — LeBron James on Twitter shouted: “BOGUS AS HELL MAN!!!!! Cmon man.”

Porzingis, who is 7’3”, 240 pounds, 25 years old, and from Latvia, is paid $27 million annually for his exceptional skills. He had scored 19 points before his ejection. Should he have been expected to control his emotions better — James’ and other prominent athletes’ objections notwithstanding?

That is the moral quandary. At times, NBA games seem like nonstop episodes of psychotherapeutic theater. Player after player reacts angrily to being called for fouls they feel they didn’t commit. “Who, me? You’re crazy!” Although players usually avoid totally flaming out (they would be suspended and fined drastically if, for example, they shoved a referee), there is seemingly no limit to the number of such “controlled” outbursts. Some people simply can’t stand such juvenile acting out and avoid watching the games altogether.

Was Porzingis being selected as an example?

The extremely marketing-savvy basketball league had long resolved that having 6’10”, 270-pound (just to pick some numbers) behemoths slugging it out a la hockey was not the image it sought.

Perhaps it should penalize all of the complaining and whining that goes on during the game, rather than waiting until a scuffle breaks out. After all, good parenting requires establishing consistent behavioral standards for 5-year-olds in order to socialize them to participate in group activities.

Of course, we now have a large number of children who find it difficult to operate within such constraints, many of whom are diagnosed with one emotional disorder or another.

Perhaps the NBA could help out by being clear from the start about what it expects from 20-somethings who are paid multimillions.