In my 22 years of life, I’ve can’t remember anything quite like this. I was three when September 11th, 2001 happened. I’ve never seen the world seem to entirely stop spinning on its axis. I’ve never seen our society as a whole be fundamentally altered in such a way that it’s almost unrecognizable.
As I type this right now, I’m doing so from my bedroom, which also happens to be my current classroom. Starting tomorrow, all of my college classes will be entirely online through at least Easter—a consequence of a world that has at least been momentarily changed by disease.
Because when a viral pandemic like COVID-19 is currently laying waste to our societal norms and established systems, you simply can’t consistently meet in large numbers in places like classrooms. And if you can’t even meet in classrooms, then you certainly can’t meet in sports venues.
Basketball, both the professional and collegiate game that we have all come to cherish and love, is currently dead. Every basketball mecca from Staples Center to Madison Square Garden to even the FedExForum now sits empty, bereft of life and activity. As of right now, there is no NBA or NCAA basketball. Instead, there is nothing, a cruel void in the place where the two-to-three hour time-slots that we had freed ourselves to watch this beautiful game used to inhabit.
And the worst part of it all is that it feels wrong to mourn this missing piece of our lives. How can we mourn a missing sport when there are countless people suffering and dying from this virus every single day? Because basketball will return at some point in the future, whether this year or the next. The people who have died from this virus, on the other hand, will never return at all.
Maybe losing basketball is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it took us losing something that we all so deeply cherish and enjoy to finally accept the severity of the situation at hand. I among many others downplayed this entire crisis, believing it to be a gross exaggeration by a news media desperate for clicks.
Humility can only be learned through loss. And maybe losing basketball for an indeterminate period of time, a relatively meager loss, is just the right antidote for the lack of empathy and humility that I among others have displayed.
All of the sports that are currently missing from their normal schedules will return. Basketball will return. And for the city of Memphis in particular, the Memphis Grizzlies, led by the best young core in the NBA, will return as well.
Hopefully, the next time we watch in awe as Ja Morant attempts to do the impossible, or throw up our hands in delight as Jaren Jackson Jr. makes a ridiculous three, or groan in frustration only to then nod in approval after Dillon Brooks makes a contested step-back, we will have a little more appreciation for this beautiful game.
And maybe, we will have just a little more appreciation and empathy for each other as well.