The NBA bubble — an uncertain experiment — worked. That much can be said after the Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals last week.
Despite the number of obstacles and potential pitfalls of the NBA’s Disney World campus, the league found a way to finish their season without dealing with endless COVID-19 scares. In fact, only four NBA players that we know of violated the strict rules.
Everyone else hunkered down and donned MagicBands, Kinexon proximity alarms and Oura tracking rings that gave them access to hotel rooms, alerted them of social-distancing breaches and high temperatures, respectively.
While some of that may seem excessive, the NBA had the privilege of finishing a season without constantly worrying about the next game postponement, something that their counterparts in the MLB and NFL can’t say.
Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts called the bubble, “probably the safest place to be in the United States.”
However, creating that safe environment didn’t come without sacrifices, sacrifices that other league’s players and staff weren’t as eager to deal with.
Teams began traveling to Orlando, Fla. on July 7. The Lakers, specifically, spent 95 days within the campus. That’s 95 days without being able to be home and 95 days away from the social problems that the rest of our country was dealing with in that timespan.
“I will remember the bubble fondly, but I won’t miss much,” Washington Post NBA writer Ben Golliver said. “ This wasn’t summer camp, and it wasn’t glamorous.”
While the players were very vocal about their desire to play, even if it meant playing within a bubble environment, it didn’t mean there weren't doubts about their own abilities to withstand the grind of a months-long restricted bubble.
Even the league’s most recognizable face and voice, Lakers’ forward LeBron James, was having second guesses.
“I’ve had numerous nights and days thinking about leaving,” James said to Golliver. “I think everyone has, including you (media) guys. There’s not one person who hasn't thought ‘I’ve got to get the hell out of here’.”
James' comments came after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Many players were skeptical of going to the bubble, many were skeptical of staying in the bubble and many weren’t ready to leave their families behind for months.
Despite those challenges, they persevered and did something that many thought was impossible in today’s world. They went months without a coronavirus outbreak, in a game that involves constant physical contact and any number of 30 players touching the same ball in a game.
The NBA is a microcosm for Taylor University, and the U.S. in general. Dealing with a pandemic isn’t easy, and compromising like the NFL and MLB did can lead us to new challenges.
That doesn’t mean the NFL and MLB’s approaches aren’t working. The MLB, after greatly altering their initially planned schedule, is now in the homestretch of their postseason. The NFL just completed Week six of a 17-week season. However, they are dealing with positive COVID-19 tests and greater pressure on their athletes and coaches to avoid coming into contact with the virus.
The NBA can set an example for the rest of the nation. A healthy environment can be created in today’s world. While ordinary people may not have the resources that the lucrative company did in fighting this disease, their consistency and devotion to following guidelines and making sacrifices for the overall betterment of those around them were admirable.