The NBA – one of the first professional sports leagues in the U.S. to end the game due to the coronavirus pandemic – plans to relaunch the season in late July at Walt Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, according to a statement by Mike Bass, the Chief Communications Officer of the competition.
No agreement has been concluded yet. But the plan would essentially move basketball to the Disney complex – a 255-acre campus with arenas and ample hotel space – on a full-time basis, with players and staff living, practicing and playing there. Fans are not allowed to attend competitions.
The NBA suddenly suspended the season on March 11, after the Utah Jazz Center tested Rudy Gobert positive for Covid-19 – a move that sent a nationwide signal to the Americans about the severity of the virus.
Since then, at least 10 NBA players and multiple team members have tested positive for the virus, and the mother of a prominent player, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, passed away from Covid-19.
But after more than two months without NBA basketball, one of the world’s most popular sports leagues, one idea got a hold: what about keeping players, coaches and staff in one location, testing them regularly and allowing them to practice and play in a kind of quarantine bubble? The NBA seems to be seriously considering it – with Disney World as the bubble’s location.
Basketball fans want the sport to return – and the same goes for players
While millions of Americans and television directors eagerly awaited the return of live team sports, sporting events present specific challenges to stop the spread of the coronavirus, both among spectators and among players and staff. Basketball requires close physical proximity and contact – across the country, basketball hoops have been removed from parks and playgrounds to prevent people from playing.
Still, the NBA has taken steps to prepare for a seasonal relaunch. The competition allowed voluntary training with four or fewer players to be on May 8 Covid-19 tests provided to players and staff locations where possible. As of May 8, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Orlando Magic.
If the season didn’t start again this year, players would lose about $ 850 million in gross pay. According to results sent to NBA agents and others, a recent poll by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) found that most NBA players wanted to play again, even in empty facilities.
Polls conducted by Morning Consult indicate that fans are ready to watch sports again, even if they are not allowed to participate. Forty-one percent of respondents from May 19-21 said they wanted leagues to sport again, empty venues or not. That’s up from just 16 percent in early April.
In a interview with ESPNNBPA director Michele Roberts said players were ready to end the season. “It’s time. It’s time,” she said. “It’s been two and a half months from” What If? “My players need a degree of certainty. I think everyone does that. ‘
I contacted the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) to find out how coaches in the league viewed the NBA’s new plans. I will update this story if and when I hear something.
Many plans for the return of sports aimed to create a “bubbleWhere players, coaches and staff would play, practice and play live while quarantined from the outside world, with regular temperature checks and coronavirus testing. And for the NBA, Disney World may be an ideal gathering place.
Disney World could become the NBA’s new bubble
Florida phase two of the reopening plan has been launched last week, with a number of restaurants, gyms and hair salons allowed to open with limited capacity. The state has publicly pitched itself to professional sports leagues and teams across the country as a safe place to restart.
“We want you here”, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on May 13, referring to professional sports teams. “We want to practice basketball again, we would love to have Major League Baseball.”
He later added, “What I would say commissioners of the leagues is that if you have a team in an area where they just don’t want them to work, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida because we think it is important, and we know it can be done safely. ‘
As Yahoo! Keith Smith of Sports detailed, the Disney complex offers an abundance of hotel space and basketball facilities. And perhaps more importantly, as the complex is privately owned, Disney can block roads and other access roads, allowing NBA players and staff to remain quarantined.
And from Disney’s perspective, the potential value of the NBA playing exclusively in its field is incalculable. Disney owns ESPN, which in turn broadcasts hundreds of NBA games every year (a deal worth just over $ 2.6 billion a year). The company has been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic, with parks closed and ESPN losing money with little live sports to broadcast. As unnamed told former Athletic Disney CEO Joe Vardon, an NBA presence at Disney World could be a much needed boon to Disney – and ESPN – winnings, and encourages visitors to return to the amusement park whenever possible:
“At the moment, that message is so important, one in our culture, two because it is about sports as a place where people can go back and feel safe. I think it is a very powerful message. It says, “Wow, the NBA boys worth tens of millions of dollars and the owners worth billions and billions of dollars have felt that this is a safe place to put their athletes.”
But there are still many questions that the NBA, Disney and the NBPA have to answer. Which teams would go to Disney World? Would the NBA season begin where it left off, or do teams advance to the playoffs? Would players are quarantined two weeks on arrival at Disney World? What about the families of players?
And if it works (aside from what ‘works’ even means for a potentially shortened NBA season in what is essentially a sports theme park), what does it mean for other sports, especially those with bigger staff and bigger teams, like football?