Credit: Bill Moore photo

When the NBA resumed its season on July 30 inside the aptly named bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, the state was experiencing one of the highest positivity rates of the novel coronavirus in the country. Even with an incomparably structured, immensely resourced, stringently monitored operation, it still seemed inevitable the league would mirror society outside of its isolated confines and encounter a spread of COVID-19.

But in its latest round of testing last week, only a few days ahead of the start of the playoffs, which began this past Monday, Aug. 17, the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association announced that out of 342 players tested for COVID-19, none were positive. It continued a remarkable achievement that has left skeptics—including this writer, who before the restart opined the league would likely stop play again before successfully reaching its targeted conclusion—pleasantly surprised.

The NBA, currently under the leadership of Commissioner Adam Silver, has long been widely viewed as the most progressive and forward thinking of the major United States sports leagues. They have forwarded their reputation by funding and using a saliva COVID-19 test developed by Yale University that could potentially redefine the battle to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Characterized by Yale in a press release as “simpler, less expensive and less invasive” than testing that utilizes nasal swabs, the test was granted an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration last Saturday.

Named SalivaDirect, it has yielded favorable efficacy and efficiency in its early stages with a deduced 90% accuracy rate of the more commonly used nose and throat tests, and provides a 24-hour turnaround for results.

The NBA’s soundly contained space has enabled teams to create more cohesion on the court as rosters have remained unaffected by a virus that continues to ravage the general population since the first known case in the United States was confirmed on Jan. 21 by the Center For Disease Control. As of yesterday (Wednesday) morning, there were over 5.5 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and the death toll exceeded 172,000. Florida persists as a red spot and had the second highest number of cases among all states with 570,024 at mid-week.

The playoffs are firmly underway. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP, led the Milwaukee Bucks to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and LeBron James, a four-time league MVP, along with sidekick Anthony Davis, carried the Los Angeles Lakers to Western Conference’s top seed.

However, neither the Bucks nor the Lakers lived up to their status as both were upset by No. 8 seeds in their respective opening round Game 1 matchups on Tuesday. The Bucks fell to the Orlando Magic, 122-110, and the Portland Trailblazers upended the Lakers by 100-93. The Bucks and Lakers will try to get right tonight—6 p.m. start for the Bucks and 9 p.m. tip-off for the Lakers—when they take on their opponents in Game 2.

Continuing his call for racial and social justice, prior to facing the Blazers, James sported an altered MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat with a line going through the words “Great Again,” adding his own wording that read “Make America Arrest the Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor.” It was an explicit call for action in the case of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, who worked as an emergency medical technician before she was shot and killed by officers of the Louisville (Kentucky) Metro Police shortly after midnight on March 13 while sleeping in her bed.

Police were conducting a no-knock warrant to execute an arrest for a suspected drug dealer who they believed might be located at Taylor’s residence. To date, none of the officers involved in the shooting have been arrested for Taylor’s murder.