The rumors are true! The NBA (National Basketball Association) announced on Saturday that they are in talks with the Walt Disney Company about restarting the season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass stated that, along with the National Basketball Players Association, the NBA is in discussions with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-2020 NBA season in late July with the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex serving as the site for games, practices, and team housing. The games would likely be televised but played without live audiences.
“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Bass said.
The NBA’s announcement confirms that the league is focusing on using one site rather than multiple sites. The NBA also has a close relationship with The Walt Disney Company – the parent company of ABC/ESPN, the league’s most significant media partner – as well as with Disney’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who has worked with commissioner Adam Silver throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the size and infrastructure of Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex make it an ideal location to accommodate all 30 teams in the most controllable environment possible.
The NBA has been debating the “when” and “where” for restarting the season since March 11 when COVID-19 forced its postponement. Exactly how the league will resume is still up for debate with options ranging from all 30 teams playing a set number of games before playoffs to jumping straight into a tournament-style format that would exclude the teams already at the bottom of their conferences. However, the ultimate decision will be made by commissioner Silver in coordination with public health professionals.
Among the commissioner’s considerations are certainly the availability of COVID-19 tests; how closed the “bubble” would have to be to reduce the likelihood of new infections; and how many players, coaches, and staff from each team would be allowed to attend. Furthermore, any spike in coronavirus cases as individual states begin to loosen their stay-at-home restrictions or any significant change in how the pandemic is playing out in the U.S. overall could potentially derail any plans. But still, after over two months of unanswered questions regarding the resumption of this year’s NBA season, it’s heartening for basketball fans to see a plan start to take shape.