Do NBA players dream of electric sheep?

(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Pandemic. Violence. Social unrest. Imagining a dystopian NBA future that’s uncomfortably close to our dystopian NBA present.

You ever wonder about the possibility of alternate dimensions? Mirror worlds facing a present more tragic or more hopeful than ours. I envision worlds with flying cars and cures to every disease. Lightspeed travel and androids that eliminate the need for human labor. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, a world after catastrophic disaster. Weirdly steampunk. Excruciatingly manual and unimaginative. Like our own, but somehow worse.

EARTH No. 3 — 2020: Just a few days until the NBA season resumes

The birds do not sing at sunrise anymore. All you’ll hear is the offkey whistling of the winds through the branches of barren trees. The ground vibrates as massive filtration trucks drive through the city in order to bring some visibility to our surroundings. Clearing the air of debris: dust, sand, pollution and the like. I sit up on my bed and take a moment to awaken myself and remember where I am. I live for those brief seconds between unconsciousness and consciousness. A short moment for me to recollect dreams of a simpler time. Dreams of coffee shops and classes, mall rats and corner store runs. But then, I come tumbling back into this carbon vessel and realize, this is a new day in a new world.

The attack was at night, a mushroom cloud pulverizing half of the global populous; leaving shadows where people once stood. Shadows that still stain fallen concrete walls. The wealthy survived in their bunkers, but as for the rest of us? We fend for ourselves. The earth is infertile and sterilized of its microbiome; nothing grows and everything within it dies. Deserts stretch where fields of lush greenery once rolled. The air remains poisoned and unsafe for inhalation, so we spend our days and nights cooped in an insulated, steel sheet shack, dizzy from our own CO2.

Donning a gas mask, I trekked to the dump to retrieve an old, abandoned TV, something straight out of the early aughts. Why would she need this, you may wonder? Did you not hear the wonderful news? The NBA is finally back. Of course, there was thermonuclear warfare only three months ago. People are starving, out of work and looting. The air is poison and our crops refuse to grow.

Surely, they’d cancel the remainder of the season? No one can be so desperate to see J.R. Smith stumble through the playoffs.

It seems few understand the implications of a canceled season. If they cancel this season, the CBA will be torn up! Ownership is definitely not going to negotiate a new agreement in the midst of anarchy, so player salaries could be deeply affected! It would ruin everything and likely eliminate any hope for a season next year.

“Wouldn’t it be a distraction? Shouldn’t we be focused on building a government instead of having that guy with the biggest machete and android, child soldier militia run everything? I swear I’ve heard that some players wanted to help with the rebuild anyway, not play a game.”

It’s my roommate Android 4581. His kind is convincingly human in the new world. It would require examination of the marrow in his bones to verify his serial number. As far as he’s concerned, he’s human. 4581 watches me struggle to remember my League Pass account e-mail. I fumble with the remote at the prospect of several weeks of seeing my team, the Raptors, perform. Fighting through disease and destruction for an otherwise meaningless, asterisk laden trophy.

“Besides,” he sighed, “it would be totally unsafe. The air makes all humans incredibly sick-” I interrupt him before he could finish. “Don’t worry about it! They’ll make players play in their gas masks and radiation protection coveralls. To curb any radiation illness, they’ll be hooked to devices to monitor their temperature and heart rate at all times. In fact, they’re not even allowed to leave the campus so as to avoid contamination. Ankle monitors will keep them on the premises and security will ensure the bubble remains intact.” He was becoming frustrated with me.

You see, we need the distraction of sport. An alternative to this new world of degradation and rebirth. I need to see a collection of athletic muses bounce a ball to distract me from my chronic coughing and the surrounding sociopolitical unrest. I need this and have come to terms with the inevitability of sickness, possibly chronic in nature, for the players involved. But it’s a risk that I’m willing to take.

“Where will they play?” 4581 asks.

“The Disney World ruins.”

SUBSCRIBE. Get The Whiteboard delivered daily to your email inbox. light