Updated: Feb 21
Under commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA has enjoyed unparalleled international and economic growth. He also hasn't been afraid to face unique challenges head-on. Silver swiftly banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life in 2014 after making racist remarks and successfully arranged the completion of the 2019-20 season in the $170 million Orlando bubble. There's no question that Silver has taken the league to new heights, but no commissioner of a professional sports league is without mistakes.
The 2020-21 season has been a whirlwind slowed only by postponements and cancellations of games due to team-wide COVID-19 outbreaks. Teams are facing off twice in a row to reduce travel and finding themselves playing more back-to-back nights than ever. It was a record-breakingly short offseason, especially for the teams that made a deep playoff run last summer. Despite these strenuous conditions, Adam Silver is determined to host the NBA's annual All-Star Game on Mar. 7 in Atlanta.
Players are exhausted, and they haven't tried to hide it. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard – four of the NBA's brightest stars – have publicly objected to hosting an All-Star Game this year. James said the league's decision was a "slap in the face." Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox was actually the first player to voice his concerns.
"I mean, if I'm going to be brutally honest, I think it's stupid," Fox told reporters after the Kings' victory over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 3. "If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, then what's the point of bringing the All-Star Game back? But obviously, money makes the world go round, so, it is what it is."
This is extremely concerning, especially since the players were promised a break from Mar. 5-10 in the beginning of the season. They expected a week in which they could spend time with their loved ones and get some much-needed rest. But now, they'll play in a game most don't want a part in.
We've already seen the effects that a condensed season has inflicted: just ask Anthony Davis. After re-aggravating a seemingly minor Achilles injury, he's going to miss a minimum of three weeks. The Lakers will now lean on LeBron James more heavily than ever, but they're going to need contributions from the entire rotation if they want to stay in the fight for the top seed in the Western Conference.
The players aren't the only ones with concerns about Silver's push for the All-Star Game. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is trying to dissuade fans from gathering in celebration and potentially creating a superspreader situation.
"I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks," Bottoms tweeted Tuesday. "We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party."
It's not like that tweet will magically trap residents in their homes. Bottoms sent it as a desperate plea to both the people of Atlanta and Silver. Georgia is sixth in new COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents among all states, and the All-Star Game won't make those numbers any better.
Silver knows that the NBA is a business, and that's why he's the only one in favor of the All-Star Game this season. But at some point, he needs to fulfill one of his primary roles as commissioner: to listen. Listen to the players, to the coaches, to the mayor of Atlanta. On multiple occasions, it seemed that Silver was different from other commissioners in that he made it about players first. Perhaps this is showing us his true colors.