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2020 NBA Bubble
National Basketball Association logo.png
League Flag of the United States.png NBA
Duration Exhibition scrimmages:
July 22–28, 2020
Regular season "seeding" games:
July 30 – August 14, 2020
Play-in tournament:
August 15, 2020
NBA playoffs:
August 17 – September 30, 2020
NBA Finals:
September 30 – October 11, 2020
No. of teams 22
Average attendance 0 (held behind closed doors)
Regular season "seeding" games
Top seed: Milwaukee Bucks (East)
Los Angeles Lakers (West)
Playoffs
Eastern Conference Championship
Champions Miami Heat
Series MIA: 4 - BOS: 2
Opponent Boston Celtics
Western Conference Championship
Champions Los Angeles Lakers
Series LAL: 4 - DEN: 1
Opponent Denver Nuggets
Finals
Champion Los Angeles Lakers
Series LAL: 4 - MIA: 2
Opponent Miami Heat
Awards
Finals MVP LeBron James (LAL)
NBA seasons
<- 2018–19 NBA season
2020-21 NBA season ->

The 2020 NBA Bubble, also referred to as the Disney Bubble or Orlando Bubble, was the isolation zone at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, that was created by the National Basketball Association (NBA) to protect its players from the COVID-19 pandemic during the final eight games of the 2019–20 regular season and throughout the 2020 NBA playoffs. Twenty-two out of the 30 NBA teams were invited to participate, with games being held behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the teams staying at Disney World hotels.

The bubble was a $170 million investment by the NBA to protect its 2019–20 season, which was initially suspended by the pandemic on March 11, 2020. In June, the NBA approved the plan to resume the season at Disney World, inviting the 22 teams that were within six games of a playoff spot when the season was suspended. Although initially receiving a mixed reaction from players and coaches, the teams worked together to use the bubble as a platform for the Black Lives Matter movement.

After playing three exhibition scrimmages inside the bubble in late July, the invited teams played eight additional regular season games to determine playoff seeding. The playoffs began on August 17, and the NBA Finals began on September 30. The season ended on October 11 when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in six games.

Suspension of the season

On March 11, 2020, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019–20 season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19 hours before the Jazz road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. On June 4, the NBA Board of Governors approved 29–1 (with the lone dissenter being the Portland Trail Blazers) resuming the 2019–20 season in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World, after prior consideration of Las Vegas and Houston as potential spots.

Resumption of the season

On June 16, 2020, the NBA released a medical protocol to be used during the season restart in the bubble to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches, officials, and staff. This includes regular testing for COVID-19 prior to and throughout the season restart, wearing a face covering or mask, and social distancing to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 from occurring. Players and coaches who are deemed "high-risk individuals" by their team, or players who have already suffered season-ending injuries prior to season suspension, will not be permitted to play and will also not lose any salary. Any player who is medically cleared may also decline to participate, but they will lose their corresponding paychecks.

The protocol outlined six phases to ensure a smooth transition into the bubble and a successful end to the season:

  • Phase 1 of the plan ran from June 16 to 22, consisting of players traveling back to the home cities of their respective teams.
  • In Phase 2 from June 23 to June 30, COVID-19 tests began being administered to players every other day.
  • In Phase 3 from July 1 to July 11, mandatory individual workouts were conducted at team facilities, but group workouts were prohibited.
  • Phase 4 was from July 7 to July 21, consisting of the teams traveling to Disney World and conducting practices. Any player who tested positive in the previous phases could not travel being medically cleared to do so. Once teams arrive in Orlando, players and staff were isolated in their rooms, required to pass two Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests 24 hours apart before being let out of this quarantine. They will still be regularly tested for COVID-19 afterwards throughout the season. A player who tests positive will be isolated and re-tested in case of a false positive; if COVID-19 is definitely confirmed, he will be quarantined for at least 14 days to recover. Players and staff will not be permitted into another's room, nor will they be able to socialize with players on other teams staying at a different hotel building. They will have access to food and recreational activities within their hotel's bubble, but they will have to wear masks indoors except when eating. Anybody who leaves the bubble without prior approval will have to be quarantined for at least 10 days.
  • During Phase 5 from July 22 to 29, teams played three scrimmages against the other teams staying at the same hotel.
  • During Phase 6, as the regular season seeding games and playoffs are under way and teams begin to be eliminated from contention, players and staff on those clubs must pass one final COVID-19 test before they can leave Disney World.

With fans not being permitted to attend in person, the NBA installed 17-foot (5.2 m) screens on the courts, which can be used to display multimedia content and a mosaic of virtual spectators powered by Microsoft Teams.

On July 30, the season resumed as planned, with the Utah Jazz defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Los Angeles Clippers. The games are to be played across three Disney venues at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex: the HP Field House, the Visa Athletic Center and The AdventHealth Arena.

The NBA launched an advertising campaign, "It's a Whole New Game", to promote the resumption.

Rules

The NBA produced a rule book of more than 100 pages to protect its players in an attempt to salvage the remainder of the season. Rules include isolation periods, testing requirements, and the potential for financial penalties. Any players subject to isolation periods when a game is scheduled must forego participating in the game to complete their isolation. The NBA has a hotline allowing people to anonymously report players who break the rules of the bubble, which players have referred to as the "snitch hotline." Masks must always be worn by players, with eating and exercise being exceptions. Additionally, staff working at these facilities must wear masks and gloves at all times.

Players were not required to join the bubble, and at least 10 players declined to join their teams. Nobody is allowed to have guests, and all food is prepared within the bubble. Nobody is allowed to have guests, and all food is prepared within the bubble. As of July 30, 2020, only three players have been cited for violating the rules of the bubble: Lou WilliamsRichaun Holmes, and Bruno Caboclo.

Players were allowed to use many of the Disney facilities, such as pools, golf courses, bicycles, gaming areas, barbers, bowling, ping pong, and spa services. RFID "MagicBands" (normally used by Walt Disney World for hotel keys and other admissions and personalization features at park attractions) have been utilized as a check-in and contact tracing mechanism, and can be used to restrict access to practice facilities and courts if one has not completed a daily health monitoring review.

Proposal for a second bubble

A second bubble to be hosted in Chicago was briefly considered by the NBA for the eight teams not invited to the bubble so they would also have some sort competitive play instead of merely sitting out the entire time from March 2020 to the start of the 2020–21 season in December, referred to as the "Delete Eight", but ultimately the plan fell through. Although it was reported that the eight teams would have an opportunity to join the NBA Bubble in Orlando following the playoffs, this also did not work out.

On August 20, 2020, the NBA and NBPA announced an agreement where the eight teams could have voluntary group workouts at their respective practice facilities from September 4 to October 10.

Impact on media production

National broadcaster ESPN, in partnership with the NBA and the league's other broadcaster Turner, set up a 100-plus camera infrastructure surrounding the three arenas being used at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The national broadcasts also had additional cameras to provide new angles, including a "rail cam" at the side of the court, and free-throw line cameras. ESPN and Turner production staff and some on-air hosts were present inside the "bubble". ESPN and Turner had many announcers, play-by-play, color, and other commentators physically present to call bubble games. For regional broadcasters, live feeds were been fed to their respective studio for calling and broadcasting.[45]

While most ESPN and Turner announcers were in the bubble, 79-year-old Turner play-by-play commentator Marv Albert and 87-year-old ESPN color commentator Hubie Brown declined to participate citing their advanced ages as potential risks for severe illness from COVID-19.

Effectiveness

The bubble has proven to be extremely effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Leading up to the resumption of play on July 30, there were two consecutive weeks of zero players testing positive for COVID-19.

This streak was continued after play resumed, with five consecutive weeks of zero players testing positive for COVID-19 as of August 19. Close friends and family of players and coaches began to be admitted to the bubble starting on August 31.

Reaction

The decision by the NBA to enact bubble play had initially received mixed reaction from its players and coaches, with some players referring to it as a prison sentence. Other players complained about the food, with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid showing his meal and said that he was "definitely losing 50 lbs," as a reference to fan gripe regarding his weight affecting his on-court performance. After arriving in the bubble, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon said it felt "strange," while Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr. described the feeling as "surreal." Near the end of the regular season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that the bubble was "better than what we had envisioned."

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler used the opportunity to start a coffee shop in the bubble, where he charged $20 per cup. Butler was also one of few players to make the decision not to allow his family to visit in the bubble, stating that his time in the bubble was a "business trip."

Several players, including Paul George, also commented on how being in the bubble affected their mental health.

Schedule

The bubble follows the schedule below:

Stage/Round Dates
Training camp July 9–11
Scrimmages July 22–28
Seeding games (regular season) July 30–August 14
Play-in tournament August 15
NBA Playoffs First Round August 17–September 2
Family and guests of teams arrive August 30
Conference Semifinals August 31–September 13
Conference Finals September 15–28
NBA Finals September 30–October 11

Venues and bases

In addition to the three venues in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex which are hosting games, three official Disney resorts were chosen to host the teams, with the teams being arranged based on their respective records prior to entering the bubble. Although teams competed in the same campus, bubble games maintained the home and away structure of a traditional NBA season. Game feeds had been augmented in real-time to insert graphics on the court's floor such as the "home" team's logo, their real venue's name, and advertising, similar to National Football League (NFL) broadcast's 1st & Ten line.

Location Type Area Role
AdventHealth Arena Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Primary court, used for nationally-televised games, including all games from the conference finals onward.
HP Field House Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Secondary court, to be used until the conference finals.
Visa Athletic Center Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Tertiary court, used primarily for non-national games.
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Base Magic Kingdom Resort Area Hosted the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, and Memphis Grizzlies. The Portland Trail Blazers also moved into the Grand Floridian after qualifying for the NBA playoffs.
Disney's Yacht Club Resort Base Epcot Resort Area Hosted the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and Washington Wizards.
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Base/Practice Facility Animal Kingdom Resort Area Hosted the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Miami Heat at the Gran Destino Tower. All teams' respective practice courts are also located inside the convention center.

Teams

There were 22 teams that were invited to the bubble: the 16 teams in playoff position and the six teams within six games of playoff position, with their seeding and overall records.

Seeding

Eastern Conference
# Team W L PCT GB GP
1 z – Milwaukee Bucks * 56 17 .767 0.0 73
2 y – Toronto Raptors * 53 19 .736 2.5 72
3 x – Boston Celtics 48 24 .667 7.5 72
4 x – Indiana Pacers 45 28 .616 11.0 73
5 y – Miami Heat * 44 29 .603 12.0 73
6 x – Philadelphia 76ers 43 30 .589 13.0 73
7 x – Brooklyn Nets 35 37 .486 20.5 72
8 x – Orlando Magic 33 40 .452 23.0 73
9 o – Washington Wizards 25 47 .347 30.5 72
Western Conference
# Team W L PCT GB GP
1 c – Los Angeles Lakers * 52 19 .732 0.0 71
2 x – Los Angeles Clippers 49 23 .681 3.5 72
3 y – Denver Nuggets * 46 27 .630 7.0 73
4 y – Houston Rockets * 44 28 .611 8.5 72
5 x – Oklahoma City Thunder 44 28 .611 8.5 72
6 x – Utah Jazz 44 28 .611 8.5 72
7 x – Dallas Mavericks 43 32 .573 11.0 75
8 x – Portland Trail Blazers 35 39 .473 18.5 74
9 o – Memphis Grizzlies 34 39 .466 19.0 73
10 o – Phoenix Suns 34 39 .466 19.0 73
11 o – San Antonio Spurs 32 39 .451 20.0 71
12 o – Sacramento Kings 31 41 .431 21.5 72
13 o – New Orleans Pelicans 30 42 .417 22.5 72

Notes

  • z – Clinched home court advantage for the entire playoffs/clinched best record
  • c – Clinched home court advantage for the conference playoffs/clinched conference
  • y – Clinched division title
  • x – Clinched playoff spot
  • o – Eliminated from playoff contention
  • * – Division winner

Seeding Games Awards

Awards for play during the seeding games were also announced, with Damian Lillard named Player of the Seeding Games after averaging 37.6 points per game.

Award Recipient(s)
Player of the Seeding Games Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Coach of the Seeding Games Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns)
All-Seeding Games First Team Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Dončić( Dallas Mavericks)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
T. J. Warren (Indiana Pacers)
All-Seeding Games Second Team Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)
Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets)
Michael Porter Jr. (Denver Nuggets)
Kristaps Porziņģis (Dallas Mavericks)

Activism

With the George Floyd protests ongoing, the NBA, the NBPA, and the teams worked together to use the bubble as a platform for the Black Lives Matter movement. During warmups and while sitting on the bench, players wore T-shirts with large print and the text "Black Lives Matter." This phrase was also painted in large font on all official basketball courts being used for gameplay. Additionally, players were allowed the option to replace the names on the backs of their jerseys with a meaningful statement of their choice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The national anthem has been pre-recorded in advance exclusively by African American artists. Thus far, Jonathan Isaac is the lone player to stand during the national anthem and to elect not to wear a Black Lives Matter warm-up shirt, citing religious reasons for his decision. Other players respected his decision, even if they disagreed with him. Miami Heat player Meyers Leonard also chose to stand with his hand over his heart. His reasoning came down to his support for the military. San Antonio Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich, an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter, and Becky Hammon also chose to stand for their own reasons. Sean Roberts, a Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, threatened to pull tax breaks for the Oklahoma City Thunder if they kneeled. All of the players and coaches from both the Thunder and the opposing Utah Jazz kneeled anyway.

In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted Game 5 of their series against the Orlando Magic on August 26. Later that day, the NBA announced that in light of the Bucks' decision, all games for the day were postponed. The NBPA held a meeting to address the situation regarding the boycott, where the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers voted not to play the remainder of the season. Every other team, however, voted to continue playing. On August 27, the players agreed to continue the playoffs, but all games scheduled for that night would be postponed as well. The playoffs were resumed on August 29, after the NBA and NBPA agreed on three commitments for social justice reform efforts, including opening up arenas as voting centers in the upcoming election.

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