When the National Basketball Association (NBA) first announced that they would be implementing a “bubble” concept to restart the 2019-2020 season in the midst of a global pandemic, everyone was shocked. Hundreds of players, coaches, and staff members gathered in the same place, cut off from the rest of the world, for up to three months?
Yet, what seemed like a scenario straight out of a movie has been spoken into existence by the NBA. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida has been home to the NBA bubble for about a month now. The bubble has proven to be successful so far, with only two players testing positive for COVID-19 when teams first arrived and none since.
Many safety precautions and guidelines have been strictly enforced in the bubble. Some of these rules include no leaving or bringing anyone onto campus, no in-person attendance by fans, and COVID-19 testing administered regularly. The NBA even put out a “snitch hotline” for players to report others not following the guidelines.
In order to promote fan interaction and give the players some semblance of normalcy with the unfortunate absence of roaring fans, the NBA has pulled off technical magic. Seventeen-foot LED screens encompass the arena, displaying the heads of 300 fans live streaming at home to fill the stands. Even celebrities such as Lil Wayne and former NBA legends like Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce have joined in on the virtual fan fun, making the games even more entertaining. The NBA also plays artificial crowd noise and music to mask the silence of the vast gym.
Another way the NBA appeals to its extensive audience is by continuing to encourage the Black Lives Matter movement, even on the court. The large painted words “Black Lives Matter” span across the hardwood floor, and players were also permitted to choose an impactful phrase to wear on their uniform, many opting for “Vote”, “Say Her Name”, or “How Many More”, just to name a few. This has allowed NBA players to continue using their platform to take a stand and spread awareness throughout this chaotic time of uncertainty.
The games themselves have also been extremely entertaining, with the playoffs just kicking off a couple days ago. Many fans have been especially excited to watch Damian “Dame Time” Lillard continue to thrive in the bubble, who has averaged almost 40 points through nine games and gained the title of “Bubble MVP”. He led the Portland Trail Blazers to upset the Western Conference first seed team, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by stars Lebron James and Anthony Davis, in Game One of their series.
Other notable news includes the Orlando Magic also upsetting the first seed of the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks, which took fans by surprise as the Bucks are led by none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, MVP of the 2018-2019 regular season.
If all goes according to plan, the 2019-2020 NBA champions will be crowned in October.
As fans continue to self-quarantine at home throughout the United States and most of the globe, the NBA has served as a primary source of entertainment for sports lovers and bored families alike, continuing to help ease the tension currently weighing down the world. The “bubble” concept has also served as an inspiration to other organizations, paving the way to gradually rebuild the sports and entertainment industry despite COVID-19 raging on.