US basketball

No asterisks: Next NBA title winners ‘deserving’ to be called champions

Delfin Dioquino
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum says the next NBA champion should not have an asterisk despite the season being finished in a bubble

There is a growing debate that the next NBA champion will carry an asterisk since the season – halted for 4 months due to the coronavirus pandemic – is being finished under unique circumstances.

For starters, it is just the first time since 2012 that the NBA will not play a full 82-game schedule as the 22 teams competing in the restart have only 8 seeding games each to determine the playoff picture.

But for NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, the team that will lift the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season is just as legitimate a champion as the previous NBA titleholders.

“[I] would tell you that whoever wins the championship this year will be very, very, very deserving of being called NBA champions because [of] the amount of adversity – the amount of mental fortitude to go through 70% of the season and then have to take off, for many of these players, this is the most amount of time that they have ever not played organized basketball,” Tatum said in a conference call with reporters.

A glaring challenge the players face is playing without spectators.

Used to competing before loud and jampacked home arenas, players have to get accustomed to not having a homecourt advantage as all games will be played in a bubble at the Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“[T]o come back into camp, to play in this environment that no one has ever done before, and then to go out, play with no fans – live fans – in the arena, the champion will be a true champion because they will have had to overcome so much adversity to get to that finish line,” Tatum said.

After the seeding games, the 7 teams from each conference with the highest winning percentage from the regular season and seeding games combined will advance to the playoffs.

The No. 8 seeds will automatically clinch their playoff seats only if they are more than 4 games ahead of the No. 9 seeds.

Otherwise, a play-in for the last playoff berth will ensue, with the No. 8 seeds enjoying a twice-to-beat incentive against the No. 9 seeds.

“[I] think it will be rewarding and I think it will be satisfying for whomever wins the championship. I think they will get all the credit that they deserve as being an NBA champion this year,” Tatum said. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.