Professional sports adapt games in a COVID-19 world


A professional basketball team competes in the NBA summer league.

This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions for sports fans across the United States. From the untimely death of Kobe Bryant in January, the cancelation of the NCAA tournament in March, and professional teams playing in nearly empty stadiums, nothing about the traditionally dependable world of sports feels normal

Yet, even with the virus raging throughout the country, sports fans have been able to turn their televisions on to enjoy the many, slightly updated, sporting events that have occurred in recent months. 

In March, the National Basketball Association’s season was dramatically postponed once Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, postponed and shut down the entire season, which would not begin again until July 28.

The NBA player’s association and front offices were able to discuss fast testing for COVID-19  and explore different ways to conclude the season. According to, Silver first introduced the idea of a ‘bubble’ on May 8, when he discussed the idea of centralizing the league in the two cities of Orlando and Las Vegas. 

On June 3, the 22-team bubble format was approved. The NBA decided to create the bubble in Orlando’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. From July to Oct., the NBA played games to determine the champion. Through the final regular-season games into the dramatic playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to take the trophy and win it all. Basketball legend LeBron James won his fourth NBA Championship. Anthony Davis earned his first championship, after being traded from the New Orleans Pelicans in the offseason. 

In the end, the Lakers dedicated their championship to the late Kobe Bryant. 

Major League Baseball also played through the pandemic, though instead of the normal 162 games, teams played a reduced 60 game schedule.

The MLB did not implement the bubble strategy to help contain the possible spread of the Coronavirus, and while they were able to finish the season, according to, 26 of the 30 total MLB teams recorded at least one positive test result at some point throughout the season. 

Though there was no bubble in the regular season, the MLB front office created one for the 16-team playoff bracket. This bubble included games in Los Angeles and San Diego, California for the American League conference and games in Arlington and Houston, Texas for the National League.  

The virus did not stifle the playoffs, which left the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers squaring off in the World Series. The Dodgers were able to win the series in six games with stellar performances from outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher Clayton Kershaw.  

The National Hockey League implemented a playoff-bubble in which the 24 top teams played in Toronto, Canada. The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to win the Stanley Cup Trophy, defeating the Dallas Stars in six games. 

The National Football League did not face many issues in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was the offseason, but the NFL Draft in April was held virtually due to the virus. In Week 11 of the NFL season, fans have seen the impact of COVID-19 on the games. 

Numerous players, coaches and NFL staff members have tested positive for the virus, yet the NFL continues to work through and remain flexible through the challenging times. The NFL implanted new rules in the wake of the virus, including adding the Covid/Reserve list, a list of close contacts on a team that has been deemed as ineligible to play for close contact with players who have tested positive. The NFL will most likely crown a champion in February, but fans will have to wait and see. 

Even with the virus, the sports world continues to move on at a somewhat normal pace. Although athletes and leagues face unprecedented challenges, the show must go on for these professionals as they continue through these crazy difficult times.