December 09, 2020
The league was lauded for completing last season safely in isolation in Disney World. But the new campaign holds a fresh set of challenges
As Covid surges in the US, is the NBA ready to step outside its bubble?
As other sports leagues went through myriad challenges as they resumed this year, the NBA proved that it was not only possible to safely play sports amid a pandemic, but that there was now a blueprint for safely returning to normal, as long as you have the funds. The league spent $180m creating an isolated “bubble” at Disney World in Florida, and completed the 2019-20 season with no new positive Covid-19 tests once play resumed at the end of July. The NHL and MLB reacted with bubbles of their own, and journalists wrote stories with headlines such as “What We Can Learn About Covid-19 Safety From the NBA.”
But as the new NBA season approaches, the league is throwing caution to the wind. Despite the United States experiencing a third wave of Coronavirus, with more than 200,000 new reported cases a day (compared with fewer than 70,000 when the NBA began its bubble in late July) the 2020-21 season will begin on 22 December. It will not take place inside of a bubble. Instead, teams will fly (privately) across the country during a 72-game schedule, staying in hotels and, in some cases, even playing in front of fans.
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