How the NBA and Disney Plan to Keep Players Safe and Entertained Inside the Disney Bubble
The NBA is back, and in the most unexpected crossover of all time, the teams will be finishing out their 2019-2020 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Regular season games don't resume until July 30, but players have already begun to arrive in Orlando to allow time for practice and to acclimate to their magical new environment, as well as the rigorous set of safety procedures to help ensure the integrity of the NBA "bubble" (though the league would prefer to call it a campus).
Twenty-two teams will restart the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which is massive enough to hold multiple games simultaneously. The complex also houses practice courts, though some practice areas are being set up inside the players' hotels, and members of the Disney staff have been spotted wheeling in extra-large beds to ensure the athletes get a good night's rest.
Aside from more comfortable accommodations, the NBA and Disney have worked out a highly-detailed agreement on health protocols and entertainment options to ensure the NBA players stay safe and have fun both on and off the court. Here are nine ways they're handling this unprecedented endeavor. If you're loving this mashup as much as we are, follow the action at @nbabubblewatch on Instagram and @NBABubbleLife on Twitter.
Players Have Their Own Disney Hotels
Of the 22 teams, eight are staying at the Grand Floridian, eight more are at Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, and six are staying at the Yacht Club. But don't get your hopes up that you'll be staying on the same floor as your favorite player. Regular Disney guests cannot stay at any of these resorts until teams are eliminated from the tournament and the NBA players move out. Based on each hotel's reopening date, it appears winning teams will eventually move out of their current resorts and check in at Coronado Springs, which is closed through mid-October.
They'll Be Tested Daily For COVID-19
According to USA Today, players have to be cleared before traveling to Orlando and are then tested immediately upon arrival at Disney. They can't leave their hotel room until they've completed two negative COVID-19 tests (though Bucks player and mega-Disney fan Robin Lopez didn't seem to mind much). If you're curious, the Sixers' Matisse Thybulle documented his time in quarantine on his YouTube channel.
Once they've passed quarantine, they must complete daily tests to stay on campus. Two players have already tested positive while in quarantine, and those players were ushered off campus to isolate at home or in isolation housing until they are cleared to return.
There Are Tons of Safety Protocols
Before heading off to meet Mickey, the NBA put together a comprehensive 113-page document outlining their health and safety protocols for the remainder of the season. It doesn't exactly sound like a page-turner, but it does cover important things like social distancing and mask use. NBA players won't be wearing masks or staying six feet apart during games or practices, but both of these are required in public spaces off the court.
The protocols do offer a bit of comic relief, with NBC Sports reporting rules like "no doubles ping pong" and "no sharing snorkels in the pool." Players who are found in violation of the guidelines could find themselves in an extended quarantine. According to Shams Charania, senior NBA analyst for The Athletic, Kings center Richaun Holmes was placed in a 10-day quarantine for crossing the campus line to pick up a food delivery. There's even an anonymous tip hotline where players and staff can report violations.
Cleaning Will Be Frequent and Thorough
Disney cast members will be in charge of cleaning players' rooms, public spaces like restrooms, and other high-touch areas like handrails, lobbies, and elevators on a daily basis (sometimes even multiple times each day). As reported by USA Today, training and practice equipment will be sanitized between uses.
The big question mark here is that cast members will not be sequestered to the NBA campus, leaving the potential for virus transmission as they come and go from the "bubble." They will be required to wear masks and gloves, follow social distancing guidelines, and only enter guest rooms when players are not present.
Family and Friends Can't Visit . . . Yet
For now, players, staff, and sports media are on their own within the NBA campus. Because 14 of the 22 teams will be sent home after the first round of playoffs, family members and other guests won't be allowed to enter the campus until July 30, the day before the semifinals are scheduled to take place.
According to NBC Sports, family and guests must undergo a quarantine elsewhere in Orlando before entering the NBA campus and a four-day quarantine on campus before they can see their loved ones. Once released, they'll be subjected to the same testing and health protocols as the players.
Athletes Are Being Served Mickey Waffles (and a Lot More)
Mickey waffles alone can't sustain an NBA player's demanding nutritional needs, but it's nice to have them as an option. In addition to the Disney staple, players will enjoy chef-prepared meals and delivery service from six pre-approved Orlando restaurants, according to USA Today. Each team will also have access to various onsite restaurants at their respective hotels, room service, and an assortment of snacks and drinks. If you saw those viral photos of the airplane-style meals players were served when they arrived, it seems those were only intended for the quarantine period. Meals shared since then have looked much tastier.
They Can Pass the Time With Outdoor Activities
Disney has a wide range of outdoor activities available that, let's face it, most visitors pass right by as they head straight for the world-famous theme parks. Per USA Today, NBA players can fish — which they've been doing a lot of — rent pontoon boats, and play a round of golf on one of Disney's three NBA-available courses. Athletes also have access to lawn games like cornhole and giant Jenga in the courtyard area of their hotel.
Players can also swim in designated resort pools and, when the sun goes down, the NBA has arranged DJ-led pool parties on select evenings. With no guests yet allowed on campus, the first party looked pretty sparse, but things will probably pick up once everyone has passed quarantine and is allowed to roam the campus more freely.
. . . And Indoor Activities, Too
Players who prefer to stay out of the hot Florida sun can pass the time with ping pong, card games, video games, and even yet-to-be-released movies, all brought in by the NBA, according to Disney Food Blog. They can even visit Disney Springs to test out their 10-pin skills at Splitsville Luxury Bowling Lanes outside of regular hours.
Because life (and hair-growth) doesn't stop when you're at Disney, the league is also bringing in barbers, hair stylists, manicurists, pedicurists, and a VIP concierge.
Athletes Get the Disney After-Hours Experience Of Our Dreams
Most Disney fans would pay a pretty penny to visit the parks after closing time and hop on their favorite rides. According to the OC Register, NBA players staying on the Disney campus may be able to do just that. Along with their guests and league staff, players will have exclusive after-hours access to attractions at Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. Considering they won't be able to visit the parks during regular business hours (to keep other visitors safe), getting to hop on Expedition Everest or Rock 'N' Roller Coaster with no wait is a pretty sweet perk.