Similarly to other professional sports in America, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) have had to work around the pandemic. Both groups are quarantined in Florida, with the NBA at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando and the WNBA at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
The NBA season started last year on Tuesday, October 22, and was scheduled to end this year on Wednesday, April 15. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the NBA announced that it was suspending its season on Wednesday, March 11. Since the season was cut off midway through, the league planned to resume where they left off on Thursday, July 30.
The 22 teams eligible for the NBA playoffs — 13 from the Western Conference and 9 from the Eastern Conference — are staying in a group of Disney World hotels with little to no outside contact, also called “The Bubble”. When teams first arrived, only players and a limited number of staff were allowed. However, as of last Wednesday, players are allowed to have guests enter the bubble, but only if they have a previously established relationship with them.
Upon arriving in Orlando, NBA players and staff had to self-isolate for 48 hours until they received two negative COVID-19 test results in a row. From July 7 to July 9, NBA teams flew into Orlando and had team training camps from July 9 to July 21.
The WNBA season was scheduled to start in May but was postponed until Saturday, July 25. As a result, the first tip off of the season was at the IMG Academy. The league is currently aiming for a 22-game season.
The WNBA is quarantining in its own bubble, also known as “The Wubble,” which includes all 12 teams staying at the IMG Academy. Between Sunday, June 28, and Sunday, July 5, the league tested 137 players for COVID-19 and found seven positive results. As of Monday, August 10, there have been no new cases of COVID-19 in the bubble. The teams reported to the IMG Academy on Thursday, July 6, and started training camps on Friday, July 10.
During this tumultuous time, both leagues are using their platforms to support and spread awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. NBA players had the option to choose from 30 preselected social justice terms to have on the back of their jersey, including “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Justice,” “Peace” and “Equality.” In Bradenton, the WNBA players wear the name “Breonna Taylor” on the back of their jerseys as a way to dedicate their season to the 26-year-old EMT killed by law enforcement. Both leagues’ courts sport the bold, black letters “Black Lives Matter.”
Fans may not be allowed in the stadiums just yet, but like all of us, the leagues are trying to make the most out of a situation that is far from ideal. However, if you have your heart set on being a part of the action, you can try your luck at securing one of the 320 virtual seats offered for each NBA game over Zoom. Your face will be seen, your cheers will be heard and you can enjoy all the snacks from the comfort of your own couch.
More information on the seasons and their schedules can be found at the NBA’s website and the WNBA’s website.