It will be hard to find any sports book that captures the atmosphere of sport and the nation during the coronavirus pandemic than this book about the bubble where the 2020 NBA season was completed. Here is my review of “Bubbleball.”
“Bubbleball: Inside the NBA’s Fight to Save a Season” by Ben Golliver
Basketball, memoir, professional
May 4, 2021
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
When the NBA shut down operations on March 11, 2020 after Rudy Goebert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, the entire sports world, as well as the league, was thrown into disarray. Amid all the uncertainty, the NBA was working on a plan to try to salvage the season and crown a legitimate champion. How the league did this is captured in this excellent book by Washington Post NBA writer Ben Golliver.
Usually when an author who is not an athlete or part of the subject inserts themself into a book, I believe that it distracts from the actual topic. That was not the case for this book, as Golliver’s experiences in the “bubble” where all personnel associated with the league’s restart – players, coaches, officials, media and others – were housed and worked, was not only enlightening but absolutely necessary to illustrate what everyone was going through at the Disney sports complex.
Another excellent aspect of the book was how the players responded to the shooting of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake – the most prominent cases of police shootings of Black people. The social justice messages that were on display on the court, player jerseys and stated by players and coaches were just as much a part of the bubble experience as basketball and virus testing. The section on the atmosphere and discussion in the Milwaukee Bucks dressing room when they learned about the Blake shooting was especially profound. Because the locker rooms were much smaller than those of NBA arenas and the soundproofing was not as effective, Golliver was privy to information that he normally wouldn’t be and as a result, it was a moving section about the Bucks’ decision to not play the Orlando Magic that night.
Of course, the basketball writing was very good as well. He covered all rounds of the playoffs and the completion of the regular season with just the right amount of detail. He didn’t get too bogged down with play-by-play descriptions, but these were more than just brief overviews as well. As well as the prose was written, however, when the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned as the 2020 champions after the Miami Heat surprisingly gave them six tough games in the Finals, much like the players, readers will find themselves glad that the odyssey was coming to end. Basketball aficionados will love this book for the inside look of life in the bubble while more casual fans will appreciate this look at the strange but completed 2019-20 NBA season.
I wish to thank Abrams Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book Format Read: