Surges in COVID-19 Cases Lead to Changes in the NBA

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors plays defense on LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 19, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the year comes to a close, I look back on the NBA season and the fun it was to watch stars like Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo play their hearts out to push their respective teams to a win. They ended up opposing each other in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, with Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks edging out Durant’s Brooklyn Nets in seven games. The Bucks went on to win the NBA Finals. The playoffs hold many controversies, though, and one of those controversies is the handling of COVID during the season.

COVID-19 was a primary conflict for many, but one of the things that I noticed is that the NBA seemingly wasn’t affected by this worldwide pandemic. Could this be because of numerous players and families being handed vaccines, a lack of nightlife, or even a lack of talking to different people? The simple answer is a big NO. Yes, these factors helped, but as you may know, NBA players love nightlife and love to meet their fans internationally. So what is the cause of the lack of spread of COVID throughout The League?

According to The Undefeated writer Brandon Ogbunu, the cause for the lack of COVID positives last season is the strict rules of the NBA. “The NBA bubble provided an ideal setting to explore important questions about testing: data on thousands of individuals, detailed information on who they are, who they were in contact with and other specifics.” This so-called “bubble” was held at the Walt Disney World Resorts and Theme Parks. There were also a strict set of bubble guidelines, and if the players didn’t follow these guidelines, they would get kicked out of the bubble. As you can tell, the NBA was very serious about keeping COVID out of the picture of the league.

But how have these guidelines transitioned into the 2021-22 season? Well, they haven’t. The NBA no longer has a bubble, and players are free to do what they want. But they did keep some rules, like having a quarantine period if the players do get COVID-19 and requiring masks at NBA arenas around the country. But other than that, you’re good to go, as long as you don’t get COVID.

Fast forward to December, when the season is in full swing. Players are playing, coaches coaching, referees reffing. All is well. Until Kyrie Irving comes back from time out relating to not being vaccinated. As soon as he was allowed to come back, many players and coaches showed symptoms, and after they went through testing, they found that they were positive for COVID. Because of one player, the NBA was thrown off its rocker.

Now, as Christmas comes and goes, we see the significant impact of COVID on the NBA. The starting lineups are thrown off, along with coaching staff, among other things. Superstar players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, and Luka Doncic have had to quarantine because of the virus and cannot play in the Christmas Day games. Here is the complete list of players out and games postponed:

Head coaches Frank Vogel and Rick Carlisle are also in protocols. Also, NBA veterans and retired players are coming back to play to fill in the gaps of the players with COVID, and 10-day contracts are now more significant than ever. Former NBA stars such as Mario Chalmers and Lance Stevenson play many minutes as 38 and 40-year-olds.

COVID has affected the NFL, as well. With over 170 players positive with the virus and even more players out for close contact protocols, the NFL has had to postpone many games. Here is the complete list of players and postponements for the NFL:

Overall, COVID has changed many people’s lives, and it has also altered the NBA and other pro sports leagues.

Works Cited

Stackpole, Kyle. Dec 24. “NFL Covid-19 Tracker, Week 16: Tyler Huntley, Dalvin Cook among More than 170 Players on Covid List.”, 24 Dec. 2021,

big_data_kane. “How the NBA Conquered Covid-19.” The Undefeated, The Undefeated, 8 Oct. 2020,

Haislop, Tadd. “NBA Bubble, Explained: A Complete Guide to the Rules, Teams, Schedule & More for Orlando Games.” Sporting News, Sporting News, 29 June 2021,

Herbert, James. “NBA Covid Tracker: Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell Join List; Celtics’ Dennis Schroder in Protocols.” CBS Sports – News, Live Scores, Schedules, Fantasy Games, Video and More. –, CBS Sports, 25 Dec. 2021,