NBA Explores Resuming Season at Disney World, but Does the Shoe Fit?

The NBA hopes to return during July in an unexpected location: Disney World.

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By Sammi Chen

The much-anticipated NBA season came to a screeching halt on March 11 as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified and one of the NBA’s very own players contracted the virus. The indefinite pause cost the NBA millions of dollars in revenue and disappointed fans from all over the nation. After months of speculation, however, the NBA has finally made a statement about the possibility of resuming the season. And the proposed location was quite unexpected, to say the least.

When we think of basketball, we tend to associate it with arenas like Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center, but we definitely don’t think of Disney World, a children’s amusement park. Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass and other NBA executives, however, are exploring this unorthodox approach of hosting NBA games at Disney World in hopes of continuing the season by any means possible. In a statement released on the NBA’s Twitter, Bass stated that they are discussing strategies with Disney to restart the NBA season in late July, using the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for games, practices, and housing.

As per normal NBA protocol, each team would have its own arena, where their athletes practice and play home games. Hosting games at Disney World would differ in that all players and teams would play in the same area. Bass’s statement also touches upon players’ housing at the complex; given the current situation, we can assume athletes will have minimal contact with the outside world and will, for the most part, stay within the limits of Disney World. Because approximately all 450 players would have to live in such confined quarters, quarantining players beforehand seems like a necessary action to take. Some teams might go directly to Disney World to start training or stay in their team’s home state. According to NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, the league has started to “not only put the plans in place for return in terms of testing and safety, health-wise, but really dig this week into what that format is going to look like.”

While the fate of the NBA’s ’19-’20 season remains uncertain, The Athletic reports that due to its large campus and ability to host a multitude of teams, Disney World is “the clear frontrunner” out of the options the NBA is considering. If this arrangement is made, the NBA will be joining the MLB (which plans to resume on July 4) and the MLS (which hopes to host a July tournament), as all three leagues have plans to continue their respective seasons.

So what would this mean for the NBA? For one thing, audience attendance seems to be a huge topic of discussion. While the NBA encourages players to brace for less packed arenas, four-time MVP Lebron James disagrees and argued in a post-game interview, “We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for.” And he’s correct—fans boost player morale and bring in huge amounts of revenue; losing them would mean losing two crucial aspects of basketball. Safety, especially in these trying times, however, comes first, which may mean sacrificing fans regardless of the players’ wishes. Though the NBA seems to be headed one step closer to resuming its season, the question remains: is it worth bringing back an NBA that doesn’t include any spectators?

Regardless of the answer, NBA fans everywhere should be thrilled with this new development, as one of America’s favorite sports is beginning to find creative ways to resume its season.