There have been persistent rumors for the last month of so that the National Basketball League has been looking at ways to salvage an abbreviated season out of the dust of the global health emergency we find ourselves in.
Disney’s executive chair Bob Iger even presented the idea to the NBA’s board of governors in mid-April. Talks are still on going to try and nail down the details with a report from ESPN analyst Adrian Wojnarowski yesterday confirming that Orlando is in consideration
The idea would be to host the NBA season in a bubble isolated from any potential infection vectors. The league wants to send all the teams to one or two locations where they could film games without fans present and where all the players, coaches, support staff and their families could stay. Also important is to eliminate the need to fly between games.
At the top of a short list of sites where the league could pull this off is Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the nearby resort hotels.
It just so happens that Disney has a good relationship with the NBA. Not only does WDW sponsor the local team, the Orlando Magic, it already hosts amateur basketball tournaments in partnership with the NBA at ESPN WWOS, and The NBA Experience opened at Disney Springs last year.
A few things are standing in the way of this happening including:
1) The players and the league need to agree on a profit sharing system
2) What happens if Walt Disney World decides to reopen during this time and guests arrive with hotel reservations.
3) How much of a bubble can actually be created given that Disney’s cast members will be entering and leaving the bubble to work their jobs in the hotels and at ESPN WWOS?
It turns out the NBA isn’t the only league turning its eyes toward ESPN WWOS. Major League Soccer, which itself has a history of holding tournaments, pro and amateur, at the sports complex, is also reportedly in talks to host at least part of it season in Orlando.
I’m a casual fan of both leagues and would find it more than a little ironic that all this great competition would be underway just minutes from my door and I couldn’t see any of it except on my TV. But this really is what the ESPN WWOS complex was built for.
The complex has its own built in TV production center (although that would need to be augmented if both leagues were on site). It has the capacity to hold dozens of simultaneous games if need be among three venues capable of hosting basketball. It also has onsite training facilities.
While NBA entourage would likely be required to stay within the Walt Disney World bubble, that does come with nice resorts, great pools, dining facilities, and the possibility of some other exclusive access to parks and entertainment.
Sure there would have to be some physical distancing rules implemented and even Walt Disney World can’t provide a perfectly protective bubble, but it can come closer than Las Vegas, which is one of the other sites being considered.
No official word from either league at this point, but the idea is definitely attractive.
What do you think of the idea of hosting either the NBA, MLS or both at ESPN Wide World of Sports?