Charles Barkley was one of the early sports figures to have a COVID-19 scare, getting tested for the virus in March after coming down with an illness. Luckily, he was negative, though many others in the NBA world haven’t been so lucky.
In the weeks leading up to the NBA restart in Orlando, we’ve seen numerous reports of players in the sport testing positive. Most of us are excited for the prospect of seeing big-time professional sports return to our screens. There is a legitimate debate to be had whether it is worth it though, especially with how poor the virus situation is in Florida right now.
Barkley has bounced back and forth on his opinion of bringing the game back. Back in May, before the NBA had officially made a decision, he said he was “100-percent sure” that the league would return. That proved correct, at least as of now.
After Kyrie Irving expressed concern that the NBA restart would distract from the push for social justice in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others in recent months, Barkley disagreed with the stance. He said that not returning to play would be “catastrophic” for the league, saying that the “bill is going to come due” after all of the missed time due to the pandemic, and that the league can’t afford to miss the rest of the year. However, now as COVID-19 spikes in Florida, he is not confident that the NBA will be able to finish things out.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 3, 2020
On the latest episode of “The Steam Room” podcast with his Inside the NBA co-hosts Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, Barkley expressed significant concern with having games in Florida. “I don’t think we got any chance of finishing this thing,” Barkley went on to say. Via Fadeaway World:
“That hurts because I know a lot of people that would lose their jobs and would be affected going forward. The way this thing is spiking and obviously Florida is the worst spot in the world right now and we are taking 22 NBA teams to the hotspot. We’re taking the WNBA, MLS soccer is going on down there.”
“I just don’t see how we can go three months – the chances of us going three months and not having an outbreak – I just think that is impossible.”
It is hard not to agree with him. The rate of spread in Florida right now is very bad, and it doesn’t seem reasonable to believe it will get under control in a hurry. NBA teams are set to begin travel to Orlando on July 7, with training camps beginning on the 11th, and games at the end of the month on the 30th.
While the NBA has clearly taken care in trying to design something that can work here, plenty of employees at the Disney campuses that will interact with players and other league officials will not be quarantining on the premises. The likelihood of the coronavirus making its way into the faux-“bubble” seems very high.
Hopefully Charles Barkley and the rest of us that are pessimistic are wrong, because we can definitely use some basketball to brighten our summer. It is just hard to imagine this going off without a hitch.