The Orlando Magic and NBA have entered their campus setting to try to finish their season. The sacrifices they are making deserve our thanks.
It is really easy to forget who NBA players are and how they fit into a normal life.
These are multimillionaires contracted to play a game. They are paid well for the sacrifices they have to make — the travel, the grueling physical toll of an 82-game season. Nobody will cry about the paycheck they bring home or what they have to do to earn it.
This will not be an argument about that. The market gives them what they bear.
But it is important to remember these are still human beings and people with their own families. They agreed to this lifestyle and nobody is complaining too much about what they signed up for.
Still, it is a hard life despite its luxuries — the world-class hotels and the multimillion salaries.
These are still humans with family and loved ones. These are still humans with a desire to be home and able to get away from it all. Just like all of us.
This campus idea at Disney is not something they signed up for. In the midst of a pandemic — located in one of its hot spots, no less — the league has asked its players to sequester themselves away from family and friends for potentially three months.
And for that reason, these players deserve our thanks and gratitude. The NBA players are bearing the most risk to finish the season. They really do not have to do this.
And it is important we recognize the sacrifice they are making and thank them for that.
Creating a campus setting and a safe environment is a daunting task. Something a lot of players expressed some trepidation for. There is a mental hurdle to overcome in going into this scenario. Especially after the somewhat idyllic life they were living in quarantine.
The league is asking a lot for players to leave their families and give up some of their freedom to finish the season.
Evan Fournier said during a media call last week that the quarantine was actually some of the best moments of his life. He was able to spend time with his family and be with his one-year-old son.
Nikola Vucevic expressed a similar sentiment. He said he spent nearly every day with his son and was amazed to watch him grow.
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For players with families like Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin, this family time was something to treasure and something rare. Players are usually in and out of town. They miss a lot.
That is part of the sacrifice of being in the NBA. The weeklong road trips and being in and out of town are part of what they sign up for. It is part of the lifestyle.
Everyone knows what they signed up for, including their families. That does not make it any easier.
This is something different. And it is easy to see how much it pains Magic players — and players throughout the league — to leave their families and go through this whole process.
Terrence Ross described having to explain to his young son why he was leaving again and how long he will be gone.
D.J. Augustin said his father-in-law passed away recently. He knows his wife needs him right now. But he said she also understands that he has a job to do and responsibilities. Augustin said last week that he wishes he could be with her through this tough time.
Vucevic revealed Thursday his wife is expecting their second child and she is due in October. If the Magic advance deep into the playoffs, that means Vucevic is missing a significant amount of her pregnancy — an important time for a husband to be there for his wife.
Several players on other teams have already announced they intend to leave the league’s campus to be with their wives when they give birth. The NBA announced this will be an excused absence but that still requires a lengthy quarantine period to re-enter the campus.
This has left several players in a difficult spot. They have to be sequestered and quarantined from families and friends.
This is part of their jobs. The league worked with the players association to create this plan to return. They agreed to this process and to go through this.
They know there is a lot of money on the line too. They know the league’s financial future — their financial future — is on the line to finish the season. The league and the players understood that playing was worth the financial risk to try to get the season done and preserve things for 2021 and beyond.
At the end of the day, they agreed to do all of this. This is the way the NBA has decided to move forward and the players are on board with this plan.
That does not make it any easier. That does not make this process any easier for these men — and women who are also going into the campus setting as part of their jobs with teams, the league or media.
There is essentially no reason for the players to risk their bodies and health to play basketball during this pandemic — going through these extraordinary precautions to ensure their safety, and even then it does not feel perfect. The only reason is to give some sense of normalcy and save the league’s finances.
Fans and society are clamoring for sports to return for sure. That cannot come without gratitude for the risk and sacrifices these players are making.
The good news of jumping through all these hoops is they get to go back to the thing they love and the job they have worked their entire lives to achieve.
Many of us have been unable to get back that sense of normalcy. The NBA returning gives fans that sense of normalcy just as much as it gives the players that sense.
But the players are the ones carrying all the risk. They are the ones going through a somewhat invasive and disruptive process to bring this form of entertainment back.
Dutifully, the players are going through with it. They are adjusting to life inside the NBA’s campus, hoping they will be able to finish the season and make all these hoops and separation from their families and lives worth it.
Already it is clear this is a major sacrifice on their part. They are bearing all the risk of the return — both physically and mentally.
Whether we are watching because we are fans and want to see the teams and game we love back or whether we are just searching for something to feel a little bit normal, the NBA players deserve our thanks and gratitude for doing this for us.