No matter which team wins the NBA title this year, even if it is a team many expected to like the Lakers or Bucks, it is going to feel different. The cornavirus pandemic led to widespread changes to the process of crowning a champ from a shortened regular season, to an adjusted playoff format to a Disney World bubble that will remove home court advantage from the postseason.
Though all the teams are playing by the same rules, some have argued the champion will not be legitimate in the context of NBA history. Shaquille O'Neal is among the most prominent voices to say the NBA title will carry with it an asterisk.
Current NBA players, though, seem to feel differently and you can count Wizards guard Bradley Beal in that group.
"It's kind of like a whole new ballgame. It's almost like anybody can win," Beal said. "I think that's why a lot of people are like 'it's gotta be an asterisk next to whoever wins.' But I think it just makes it that much tougher."
Beal elaborated to say that the time off - roughly 4 1/2 months between games - will put every team in the same spot health-wise. The injuries that would have otherwise affected outcomes towards the end of the regular season and the originally scheduled playoffs have healed.
"I think it makes it an even playing field in a way. It gets guys back healthy for teams who didn't have that during the year. It gives guys times to really rest and get ready to jump back into it," Beal said.
Beal also pointed to the hot and cold streaks teams and players were on. The way everyone was playing in March now doesn't apply, again starting everyone back at the same spot.
The asterisk debate may continue to gain steam in the coming months as the NBA attempts to complete their season amid the pandemic. But don't expect it to carry on forever. The figurative asterisk usually only sticks to the teams that cheat.
People said the 1999 Spurs would have an asterisk because they won during a lockout year, but you rarely hear anyone mention that now when discussing Tim Duncan's legacy. It seems more likely than not that Beal's opinion will prevail over time.
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Bradley Beal does not think 2020 NBA champion should have asterisk originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington