As it has turned out, the NBA’s bubble in Orlando has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. The COVID-19 tests are yielding very encouraging results and, for the most part, everyone has abode by the rules and taken the pandemic seriously within the bubble (at least, as far as the public knows). Roughly six weeks after the arrival in Orlando, I decided to follow up with some NBA agents and gauge their feelings on how things have played out. Across the board, they expressed satisfaction.
“It’s just good leadership and execution, from top to bottom”
One agent mentioned the organization, preparation, and coordination of affairs as being a surprisingly excellent practice within the bubble. He said, “It’s just good leadership and execution from top to bottom. If you ever get a chance to attend an NBA-produced event, like the NBA awards show or the NBA All-Star weekend, you realize that every single detail has been painstakingly reviewed, scrutinized, and double-checked…the whole nine years.”
The agent also commended the league’s proactivity in planning out life in the bubble. He remarked, “Nobody does it like the NBA. Nobody. Like, you can bet that there were people working around the clock months before any player got into the bubble, planning this thing and a very large contingent on site weeks before any player got into the bubble executing the game plan.”
“To agree to something like this and then plan/execute is a major achievement, itself”
Another agent noted the partnership between the NBA and the NBPA. He said, “The ‘greatest success’ is the partnership between the league and the union. To agree to something like this and then plan/execute is a major achievement, itself. The country needs to get back to normal as soon as possible. It was the same after 9/11. Sports is very important to society in that way.”
Whether the public thinks it’s safe or not, he’s right. Even though we made it through those uncertain months without sports to watch, there was a way to safely return–all it took was creativity in returning and commitment to adhering to safety protocols. Sports bring our population together, in happiness and in pain.
But, how about concerns?
While health is the obvious one, distractions and tampering are certainly on the lists of concerns for the people I talked to. One agent said, “Injuries always an issue. Mental health of clients. Making sure they can focus on basketball and aren’t spending too many hours up late on screens. But, how about the elephant that’s in the room? I’d say tampering/potential poaching of clients by other agencies via players they rep. Like LeBron’s Klutch Sports. Or Tobias Harris and Mike Conley’s dads, who will be allowed in and are both agents.” I asked that agent if he thought future super teams were being molded within the bubble; “definitely,” he replied.
Another agent voiced concerns about athletes adapting to the bubble environment. He said, “My biggest concern is just having the athletes adapt to the new environment. Guys that play overseas are used to being away from home for a long period of time. For NBA guys, this dynamic is totally new. Really wonder how they plan to pull it off again next season…”
Speaking of next season, neither spoke with certainty regarding next season.
One agent said that March has been mentioned as a potential target month for the beginning of the 2021 season, depending on the timing of a potential vaccine. He also pointed to the Cowboys as a potential experiment for bringing fans back. The implication, of course, is that the NBA wants in-arena revenue back, so a timeline for potentially inviting in-person spectators is a significant factor in plans for the future.
Another agent stated that he didn’t think the NBA would be in a bubble next season. He did believe, however, that the season would start later than early December.
Regardless of how you view the NBA or the return to sports at this time, the results are undeniable. The NBA’s return to play has been successful, and to an inconceivable degree.