By M. Goncalves
Back in March 2020, Utah Jazz all-star center Rudy Gobert was infected by the coronavirus. The news broke out just before the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder played. The game was suspended and both teams were locked inside the arena to test if anyone else was infected. Gobert ended up infecting two of his teammates, Donovan Mitchell, and Emmanuel Mudiay. A couple nights before that Gobert mocked the virus and touched all the microphones in the press conference pretending to be infected. His teammate Donovan Mitchell then used the microphones and got infected. At that time, Gobert didn’t know he was sick. Gobert is a 2-time defensive player of the year and was mocked after causing the NBA to stop, jokes about how he was the best defender of all time for preventing the entire NBA from playing went viral on social media. The NBA allowed the rest of the games that night to be played but went into a hiatus to avoid more infections. Everyone wondered how the NBA would deal with this and if the whole season would be canceled. Eventually in June 2020, the NBA decided to create a bubble in Orlando to continue playing. Players, coaches, and all staff would be tested multiple times a day. No one could leave and come back without getting tested and staying in quarantine and no family members were allowed until near the end. The 22 best teams in the league were invited to play in the bubble. The teams were spread out in 3 different hotels, the best teams would be in the Grand Destino tower resort, the second-best teams would stay in the Grand Floridian and the worst teams would stay in the Yacht Club hotel. Games would be played in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex; they would take a bus to get their and return as soon as the game ended.
Due to the Black Lives Matter movement players were allowed to have a word or sentence that promoted social justice on the back of their jerseys and most players and coaches would kneel during the national anthem.
Several players decided to document this unique experience with videos on YouTube. Philadelphia 76ers small forward Matisse Thybulle went viral with his “Welcome to the bubble” videos. His videos were extremely entertaining as he gave fans an insight on how life was inside the bubble. Thybulle would film him and his teammates catching up and joking around with other teams around the bubble campus and that was always something fans would get a good laugh about. Thybulle gained around 400 thousand subscribers because of his videos and was even on the Jimmy Fallon show.
These videos showed fans how a day would be inside the bubble for players and staff and educated fans on the social injustice problems going on around the world. During the playoffs the Lakers, Rockets, Bucks, Magic, Celtics, and Raptors boycotted their games because of police brutality towards Jacob Blake.
The bubble lasted from July 7th to October 11th and there were zero COVID-19 infections. Players weren’t allowed to bring anyone into their rooms or leave the bubble. Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes was suspended for 2 games for leaving the campus by a couple meters to pick up a food delivery. Houston Rockets small forward Danuel House was asked to leave the bubble after the NBA found out he had someone inside his room. Some players such as Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley and Trevor Ariza believed playing in the bubble would distract people of the inequality around the world so decided to sit out. Players were allowed two family members inside the bubble during the quarter finals and beyond, referees were allowed one family member and coaches weren’t allowed to bring anyone.
At first every team played friendly games to get back in rhythm and after that, 8 competitive games would define each team’s seeding during the playoffs. After the 8 competitive games the NBA announced the bubble MVP: Damian Lillard. Lillard was superb in the bubble carrying the Portland Trailblazers to the playoffs as he averaged 37 points per game! The all bubble first team that had the 5 best players in the bubble: Damian Lillard, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Devin Booker and TJ Warren. There was also an all bubble second team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Caris LeVert, Michael Porter Jr and Kristaps Porzingis.
Overall, the NBA Orlando bubble lasted 96 days and hosted around 300 people and 0 coronavirus infections. The NBA commissioner Adam Silver outdid himself with this amazing idea to finish the season, the bubble impacted the world by distracting all fans bored during quarantine, promoted social justice and was a unique experience for fans and players.