And it absolutely delivered everything the fans could ask; superstars playing at a high level, back-and-forth thrillers and final-minute drama as the Jazz and Lakers escaped with wins on re-opening night.
Watch Live NBA every day until the playoffs with ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
Four months after the league shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA is restarting its season with 22 teams based inside a secure “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The unprecedented NBA experiment began with the Utah Jazz defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 106-104 in an empty arena at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The first and last points of the game were scored by Utah’s Rudy Gobert — the Frenchman whose COVID-19 case triggered the NBA’s shutdown in March.
Ahead of the opening tip-off, players from the Jazz and Pelicans — wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” — kneeled in unison as the “Star-Spangled Banner” played.
Despite an impressive Utah win, the key narrative of the game was Zion Williamson’s performance on a minutes restriction.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry resisted removing the shackles from his star rookie phenom, limiting him to three-minute bursts in a move that frustrated eager fans.
Because when he was on the court, the 129kg Williamson put on highlight play after highlight play.
Zion is back on the court after playing just 3 minutes in the first ….. and he immediately scores.He’s up to 7 points.
In the second and final game of the day the Lakers and Clippers went toe to toe and delivered an all-time thriller that went down to the buzzer.
Having led for large stretches of the game, the Lakers let the Clippers claim a handy lead in the second half.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who was confronted with a sledge about the “gray” patches in his beard before the game, defied the doubters with a pair of All-Star performances.
“Natural. I cant do anything about that,” LeBron told @joevardon when he teased him about the gray.
James, as he often does, put pay to those who thing the 35-year-old is “washed” as he delivered the game winner with just seconds remaining.
The Clippers had an opportunity to tie or even win the match but a poor floating long shot from Paul George was never going in and the Lakers survived 103-101.
In doing so, the Lakers were led by LeBron’s innovative passing and turn-back-the-clocks defence, particularly against 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Many fans felt LeBron taught Kawhi, who alongside Giannis Antetokoumpo lays a genuine claim to be the NBA’s next king, a valuable lesson and “exposed” the former Raptors champion’s game.
The action continues Saturday before Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers return to action Sunday morning against the Indiana Pacers.
NBA players are ordering an insane amount of packages into their bubble to make them feel at home.
During a segment on ESPN’s “The Jump,” Rachel Nichols explored the shipments coming into the Disney bubble’s massive shipment facility and showed off a wall full of Clorox wipes in storage to clean everything off.
“Guys have had … comforts shipped in to make them feel like at home,” Nichols said. “There’s been a couch that’s come through here, wine coolers. Udonis Haslem from the Heat says that he’s had $5,000 in Amazon orders come here. This is thousands of boxes a day.”
Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker told GQ that he brought 103 pairs of sneakers with him to Orlando, and is continuing to receive shipments of more clothes and shoes on a daily basis.
A NOTE ABOUT RELEVANT ADVERTISING: We collect information about the content (including ads) you use across this site and use it to make both advertising and content more relevant to you on our network and other sites. This is also known as Online Behavioural Advertising. Find out more about our policy and your choices, including how to opt-out.
World news – ZA – ‘Statement-making’ LeBron exposes champ’s ‘weakness’; fans demand Zion be ‘let go’: Insane NBA return