On March 11th, 2020, the NBA received the news that the Utah Jazz Center, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the Coronavirus. The world was in shock, as the NBA became the first league to suspend all league operations, in response to the virus. The league did not comment on a potential return, until June 4th. The NBA had agreed to terms with Walt Disney World, and they had agreed to create a bubble in Disney.
The idea for an NBA bubble came from the league’s Board of Governors, they were the first league to announce a plan to return. The NBA developed rings, and Disney added technology to their Magic Bands, that allowed the NBA to enforce more rules. Removal of the technology by the players was restricted, and it determined how close players were getting with each other, and constantly tracked their location. This was done to ensure the security of the bubble, to make sure the virus does not get inside. Twenty-two out of thirty NBA teams were invited to join the bubble, and that was determined based upon their chances of making the playoffs. All players had to agree to quarantine before travelling to the bubble, and if they had to leave, quarantine before coming back in. The rules for the bubble were extremely draconian, and if you break any rules, you would be sent home. The Sacramento King’s Center, Richaun Holmes, was kicked out, after travelling 6 feet over the line to pick up chicken wings.
The NBA announced that there would be 8 seeding games, to determine some of the playoff seeds, and then the playoffs would officially commence. Players travelled to the bubble on July 11th, preparing for the season restart ahead. The league had a successful restart, and was able to have all of the playoffs played, and were able to determine a champion for the 2019-2020 season, which ended up being the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA’s strict policies enforced during the bubble, were the main reason why the league was able to host the playoffs, and manage to have no positive cases while doing so. On October 11th, 2020, the Los Angeles Lakes were crowned as the champions, the NBA bubble would close a few short days later. The journey for the players was much different as well, and some were heavily affected by the bubble. First of all, the players were not able to play with fans cheering them on, or if you are on the other side, fans booing you. The players had to play games in empty, quiet arenas, and it was not normal for them, it was a major adjustment. Additionally, they were split from their families. Players could invite their families after the first round of the playoffs. That means that for the 8 seeding-games, and for the first round of the playoffs, the players were not able to visit their families. Players have spoken that this had a great effect on the way some of them played.
In the overall picture, NBA was able to be a tremendous role model for other sports leagues, and showed that it is possible to have competitive sports during the pandemic. The NHL, and NFL all started their seasons again after witnessing the success of the NBA bubble, and realizing that it is possible to make a comeback. The NFL is currently in the middle of their regular season, while the NHL and MLB have both recently crowned champions.
While the NBA bubble was extremely successful, the league is hesitant to bubble again for the start of the 2020-2021 season. It was estimated that Disney and the NBA had spent over 150 million dollars to keep the bubble running. The NBA was also at a major money deficit, from the hiatus, lack of fans attending games, and the lower viewing numbers. Creating another bubble would be extremely expensive, and the NBA is trying to stay away from the idea. However, they are determined to succeed, even if they must create another bubble.