There has already been a lot of discussion about whether or not whichever team wins the 2020 NBA championship — be it the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks or any other dark horse — will have the dreaded “asterisk” placed next to their accomplishment. No matter what format the NBA ultimately settles on for its return, this season will be different than literally any other playoffs before it, the thinking goes, and thus might be seen as less than a real title in the eyes of history.
And with the NBA trying to resume within the next few months, that debate is only going to get louder. Still, Lakers guard Quinn Cook doesn’t think it should really be a discussion at all. He explained why during an appearance on “The Jim Rome Show” earlier this week:
“I think the team who wins it this year, they really deserve it. To go through this, nobody has an advantage, nobody has been able to really get into a gym, all the facilities have been closed until recently. Teams haven’t been together at all. I think for us to stay mentally in the fight even though we haven’t had basketball in two and a half months and haven’t been around our teammates in two and a half months, for us to stay in communication, stay in the fight and still hold each other accountable and still take care of ourselves to prepare to get ready to go back to playing basketball, I think it’s even harder (to win).
“Obviously during the summer when you’re getting ready for a regular training camp you have your routines, you have your trainers, you have access to gyms to come to camp in some kind of shape. Now gyms haven’t been open at all, so I don’t think it’ll be an asterisk next to whoever wins it. I think it should be a regular championship. I’m not going to say that we should appreciate this championship more than others, but to go three months, three and a half months or however long it takes to get back playing without practicing, playing and being around your teammates, you still have to stay in the fight through a tough time, so whoever wins it this year really deserves it.”
Cook makes some good points, even if they’re a little self-serving coming from the perspective of a member of one of the league’s biggest title contenders. Still, let’s consider his argument.
For one, he’s right that these would be far more adverse circumstances any NBA champion has ever faced, and right now they’re hitting every team equally hard. Things could obviously change if, hypothetically, a star player contracted coronavirus or got injured due to the quick return from the long layoff and was forced to miss significant time, eliminating their team, but as things stand right now, this situation doesn’t appear to be giving any contender a specific, meaningful advantage. It’s just making a championship more difficult to win, making it — as Zach Lowe of ESPN argued earlier this week — potentially a badge of honor to win a title this season, not something to be minimized.
But we can’t know for certain how people will react to this title until it’s decided. Maybe asterisk talk is inevitable, because sour grapes are probably just as unavoidable from whatever fanbases don’t win. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. Whatever team wins the championship this year still gets to add it to their banner count, and no matter how hard anyone tries to, no one will be able to take away how special it will feel to win during all this from the players and supporters of that team.
In the end, maybe that’s all that counts.