In most years, the month of May would have been playoff time for the National Basketball Association (NBA). But this year hasn’t been like most years. Instead, no NBA games have occurred since the league suspended its season back on March 11 due to the continuing spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. This may have left you yearning for live on-court basketball action that’s a bit more than this:
Nevertheless, just because NBA arenas have remained closed hasn’t meant that the NBA has gone on hiatus. Quite the opposite. The NBA has been active in trying to help against these really, really little opponents, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that continue to cause big, big, big trouble.
Not too long after the season had a time out, the NBA put together its NBA Together initiative. One pillar of this initiative has been its Know the Facts efforts. In this case, facts don’t mean basketball facts like Ray Allen’s real first name being Walter. Rather, the facts are about the Covid-19 coronavirus and the pandemic. With so much bogus misinformation spreading these days such as people suggesting that drinking or injecting bleach may treat the Covid-19 coronavirus, countering these anti-facts with facts is all the more important.
The challenge is not everyone reads scientific journals regularly while on the toilet. It’s just a guess but there are probably more people who follow the NBA and its stars. Therefore, the league, coaches, and players have opportunities to reach a great number of people that may not be otherwise getting all of the facts and help set the record straight about the pandemic.
That’s why the NBA has set up a web site that includes links to legitimate World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web sites. That’s also why the NBA has set up and broadcast interviews with real scientists and medical professional. The goal has been to amplify real science-backed health and safety information and resources in an attempt to drive past all of the garbage floating around on social media and the Internet.
The efforts have resulted in some pretty cool pairings. For example, if you thought the Golden State Warriors bringing together guard Steph Curry and forward Kevin Durant for the past few years was neat, wait until you see this Curry and Anthony Fauci, M.D., pairing:
Ok, Fauci may not have the stop and pop that Durant has. Nevertheless, he’s got his own set of skillz. He has been the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984 and member of the White House coronavirus task force since its formation this year. He also has had some doughnuts named after him, as I mentioned previously for Forbes.
Curry is a six-time NBA All-Star, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and a three-time NBA Champion with the Golden State Warriors. He is also known for making baskets from ridiculously long distances, sometimes even absurdly long distances. It’s not clear whether he has had any doughnuts named him, though.
Fauci is not the only legitimate medical expert that the NBA has featured. There was also a Q & A with David Ho, MD, Director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center:
Ho is the “Magic Johnson” of HIV/AIDS research, a superstar who has earned numerous accolades such as being named Time’s Person of the Year in 1992, and receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal from U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2001. Speaking of Johnson, Ho has regularly delivered assists to the Hall of Fame point guard as well, since Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. With his vast knowledge of virology, Ho has the street cred to answer questions about the SARS-CoV2 and also assist in efforts to come up with new vaccines and treatments.
A second pillar of the NBA Together efforts has been the Acts of Caring initiative. Through this initiative, the NBA and its teams, players and owners have already donated over $89 million towards pandemic relief efforts. Players and teams have provided more than 10.2 million masks for healthcare workers too:
Then there’s food. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get flour or yeast recently to try to bake that enormous birthday bagel for yourself, you’ve probably realized that the food supply chain hasn’t exactly been working smoothly in the U.S. since the pandemic began. Imagine then how these food supply problems have affected those who were already struggling to get healthy food even before the pandemic. That’s why the NBA players and teams have donated more than 7.5 million meals to such populations.
A major part of the Acts of Caring has been bringing awareness to the fact that people of color and those economically disadvantaged have been, surprise, surprise, disproportionately hit harder by the pandemic. Yep, discrimination and economic inequalities are alive and well, or rather unwell, in the U.S. The Covid-19 coronavirus has just further exposed these longstanding and deeply embedded problems. As Tony Kirby wrote for The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, “evidence is continuing to emerge that the pandemic could be disproportionately affecting people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.” Speaking of BAME, just add an “l” and you’ll get a sense of what those of Asian-descent have been facing throughout the pandemic: unjustified blame for the pandemic. For example, Asian Americans, who remember are Americans too, have been targets of racist attacks, as I have described previously for Forbes. The NBA Together effort has been working with the broader NBA family, Magic Johnson, and the National Urban League to help raise awareness of these continuing problems and provide assistance.
Then there’s the Expand Your Community efforts to help keep people physically and mentally active and healthy. In the following video, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson, Jr. introduced the Jr. NBA at Home series, which has featured different exercises and drills that kids and anyone who ever wishes they were kids can do at home:
Here is one example of a drill that you can do with just a wall and a ball:
Just make sure that you remove any paintings or photographs from the wall before you do this.
All in all, over 40 current and former players have appeared in public service announcements (PSAs) that have been posted on social media platforms such as Instagram Twitter, Facebook and Tik Tok. These have generated more than 59 million video views.
All of these efforts by the NBA recognize what Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This is so important these days with so many divisive messages and misinformation about the pandemic being broadcast and circulated. Maybe you won’t see NBA players and coaches take on different opponents this Spring. But they are joining forces to take on much more dangerous opponent together.