Sports around the world were hit hard by the ongoing pandemic. In some parts of the world, the situation improved enough to allow athletes to return – not in the US, though, or at least not in the traditional way.
After months of little more than eSports and virtual sports betting to fill the gap, sports have returned to the US as well. While it didn’t go too well for Major League Baseball, with dozens testing positive after returning to the sandlot, the solution found by the NHL and the NBA seems to be doing the job: “bubbles”.
The NBA Bubble
The NBA Bubble, also known as the “Disney Bubble” and the “Orlando Bubble”, refers to the isolation zone established by the NBA to protect its players and staff from being infected. 22 basketball teams were invited to Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida to play out the regular season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The games are, of course, played without fans having access to the facilities – the NBA has installed several 17-foot screens so at least some fans – 300 at a time – would be able to access the grandstands virtually.
What it’s like to stay at the Bubble?
The players’ opinion about having to stay inside the Bubble for the remainder of the season was varied, to say the least. Some thought of it as a good idea, while others – most notably the Lakers’ LeBron James and the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard – almost feel like it’s a prison sentence on social media.
All things considered, though, the Bubble is a “brilliant” place, according to 76ers coach Brett Brown, cited by the CNN: he considers it the best way, considering the circumstances, to help the players, teams, and officials do their jobs.
The perimeter of the Bubble is pretty strict. Leaving is easy but getting back in is hard: players who leave have to stay isolated for 10 days. Sacramento Kings player Richaun Holmes found this out the hard way: after leaving the perimeter of the Bubble to pick up a food delivery, he had to stay in his hotel room and test negative for the novel coronavirus before returning to the court.
The rules concerning the players’ stay at the Bubble are many – and they are strict. For example, players can’t shower at the practice and game facilities, only at their hotel rooms, and while they can play golf, they are not allowed the luxury of a caddy. The facilities include a specially designed barbershop with barbers coming from all over the country, built with social distancing in mind, and having disposable capes, gloves, and masks at hand.
It will be hard for the players to spend all that time inside the “Bubble” alone – visits won’t be allowed at least until the end of the first round of the playoffs this month. But all this seems a small sacrifice for having basketball back after so much time off.