According to a report from Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the NBA is seriously considering resuming the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida, at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The NBA has Orlando/Disney World as a clear frontrunner for return-to-play site for resuming 2019-20 season, sources tell me and @sam_amick. Orlando has gained significant seriousness among other cites such as Las Vegas.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 20, 2020
While leagues such as MLB are proposing a return that keeps teams in their home cities, arenas and stadiums, the NBA has primarily targeted a bubble idea. This makes sense because the regular season was already nearly complete when the coronavirus caused a season suspension on March 11.
If the NBA is willing to cancel the rest of the regular season, and/or shorten the playoffs, they could conclude the season fairly quickly. That makes the idea of playing in a quarantine bubble much more feasible, since players wouldn’t need to be away from their homes and families for many months.
The idea to play in Orlando is reportedly not one that is just lightly being talked about. According to Charania and Amick, the NBA is already in “serious discussions” with Disney about the property.
From the report:
The NBA is in serious discussions with Disney about the property, which has gained clear momentum over cities such as Las Vegas, sources said. It remains unclear when the games would begin, but multiple sources say the prospect of players fully training in mid-June and playing by mid-July has been the most popular and possible scenario discussed. . .
. . . While the league has explored the possibility of holding games in multiple cities, it appears likely that Orlando would be a sole host. Sources confirmed that Houston has also received serious consideration as a host city, but Orlando is on track to win its bid so long as final details regarding testing and hotel use are resolved.
Disney World makes a lot of sense for two primary reasons.
First, the infrastructure is already in place: there is enough hotel space to house all the players and team personnel; there are plenty of courts; and there’s ample building space to set up testing facilities.
Second, Disney World is obviously owned by Disney, which also owns ESPN. The sports network is the league’s primary media partner, and holds exclusive rights to the NBA Finals. So both sides should be highly incentivized to make this work.
There are still many questions regarding how a return to play would work. For now, we don’t even know if the Golden State Warriors — who have already been eliminated from the playoffs — would be included, or if their season is over.
We’ll have to wait a while longer before we know if the NBA season will resume, and in what capacity. But if it does, it sure looks like it will be at Disney World.