Engulfed in confetti and immersed in the cacophony of applause, those in the Orlando arena joyously celebrated Los Angeles Lakers’ 17th championship after a divisive 106-93 victory against Miami Heat in the NBA Finals on Sunday night. This latest win marks the Lakers’ first NBA crown since 2010 and the 17th NBA title in history. It was an uphill journey to return the franchise back into its original position, but “[the] organisation wants its respect, Lakers nation wants its respect, and I want my respect too” declared Lebron James, the Lakers’ power forward. Following the team’s air-tight defensive play, Lakers ultimately managed to gain a dominant 64-36 lead. When the final buzzer sounded, James scored a total of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists; Davis Anthony also racked up a commendable 19 points and 15 rebounds.
But how did the NBA crown champions amidst a pandemic? It was the experience of more than 90 days at Disney World, where 22 teams arrived in late July to restart the basketball season. What allowed the league to resume its 2019-2020 season despite COVID-19 running rampant nationwide, was the association’s establishment of the ‘NBA Bubble’- otherwise referred to as the ‘Orlando Bubble’ or ‘Disney Bubble’. This isolation campus at Waltz Disney World in Florida was specifically designated to protect NBA players, coaches, and staff members from the pandemic during their final eight games. Hundreds of NBA players packed into the same place, all but shut off from the rest of the world for nearly three months. Yet how was this even feasible?
Resuming the season was far more complicated than simply rescheduling games. When matches were suspended on March 11 due to COVID-19 precautions, the league knew alternative plans had to be taken, so it invested $170 million to operate a three-month completion of the NBA season at Waltz Disney World Resort. The concept was seen as absurd when first introduced in early July, but the league recognised that returning to home arenas was an impossible option and focused on ensuring all playoff-team players entered the special isolation zone.
Upon arriving at the bubble, each player, staff member, and coach had to self-isolate themselves in separate rooms for up to 48 hours until they received negative COVID-19 test results. Regular testings were completed inside the bubble, accompanied with stringent health and safety protocols espoused by public health officials and infectious disease experts. Anyone entering the bubble was required to quarantine for up to 48 hours until they registered two negative COVID-19 tests; any players who left the bubble would undergo quarantine for up to 10 days upon their return to Disney, and would likewise need to register two negative tests upon entrance. Hence, beyond the harsh reality of all players clustered in the same location and playing on same courts with virtual fans, the season was able to carry out relatively smoothly.
Not a single player amongst the 341 in total tested positive, so not a single game was affected by the pandemic. The rigorous protocols proved themselves to be successful in combatting the spread of COVID-19. It goes without saying that 2020 has been an unconventional year for everyone, even the basketball world. But in light of NBA Bubble’s success, perhaps we could consider employing similar methods in other sport leagues to resume matches during the pandemic. How feasible would that be?