2020 NBA Bubble

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Many of Walt Disney World's facilities and hotels are part of the bubble
An aerial view of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

The 2020 NBA Bubble, also referred to as the Disney Bubble [1] [2] or Orlando Bubble, [3] [4] is the isolation zone with strict rules created by the National Basketball Association (NBA) to protect its players from the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2019–20 season. Twenty-two teams were invited to Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida to participate in regular season and playoff games being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. [5] The bubble is a $170 million investment by the NBA to protect its season which was cut short by the pandemic. [6] The bubble games began on July 30, 2020 inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. [7]

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. [8] 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. [9] On June 5, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) approved negotiations with the NBA. [10]

Resumption of the season

On June 16, 2020, the NBA released a medical protocol that will be used during the season restart in the bubble to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches, officials, and staff. [11] [12] 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. [13]

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. [11]
  • 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 until 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. [11] 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. [13] 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. [13]
  • 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. [13]

With fans not being permitted to attend in person, the NBA installed 17-foot screens to allow 300 virtual fans to "attend" the games. [14]

Special Disney MagicBands were also given to players, coaches and staff and reconfigured as passports and contact tracers inside the bubble to combat the spread of the virus, with transponders similar to those at the park entrances and attractions being installed at each practice facility and arena front gate and only allowing entry when a MagicBand holder had recorded his or her temperature and health chart that day. [15]

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. [16] [17] [18] [19] 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 Arena. [20]


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." [21] [22] [23] Masks must always be worn by players, with eating and exercise being exceptions. [24] Additionally, staff working at these facilities must wear masks and gloves at all times. [25]

Players were not required to join the bubble, and at least 10 players declined to join their teams. [26] Nobody is allowed to have guests, and all food is prepared within the bubble. Thus far, only three players have been cited for violating the rules of the bubble: Lou Williams, Richaun Holmes, and Bruno Caboclo. [27]

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. [28]


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. [29] [30]

This streak was continued after play resumed, with three consecutive weeks of zero players testing positive for COVID-19, as of August 5. [31]


This decision by the NBA has received a 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." [32] [33] 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." [34]


There were 22 teams that were invited to the bubble: the 16 teams in playoff position and the six teams within six games of clinching a playoff berth, with their status upon entering the bubble and their bubble record. [35]

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. [36] [37]

Location Type Area Role
The Arena Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Primary court, used for nationally-televised games, including all games from the conference finals onward. [38] [39] [40]
HP Field House Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Secondary court, to be used until the conference finals. [40]
Visa Athletic Center Venue ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Tertiary court, used primarily for non-national games. [40]
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.
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.


The bubble follows the schedule below: [35]

Stage/Round Dates
Training camp July 9–11
Scrimmages July 22–28
Seeding (regular season) games July 30 – Aug. 14
Play-in tournaments (if necessary) Aug. 15–16
Playoffs begin Aug. 17
Family and guests of teams arrive Aug. 30
Conference Semifinals Aug. 31 – Sept. 13
Conference Finals Sept. 15–28
NBA Finals Sept. 30 – Oct. 13


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. [41] 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. [42] Other players respected his decision, even if they disagreed with him. [43] 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. [44] San Antonio Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich, an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter, [45] and Becky Hammon also chose to stand for their own reasons. [46] Sean Roberts, a Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, threatened to pull tax breaks for the Oklahoma City Thunder if they kneeled. [47] [48] All of the players and coaches from both the Thunder and the opposing Utah Jazz kneeled anyway. [49]


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External links