NBA
July 16, 2020
BY Jason Michael Sanin

8 Ways to Improve the NBA Bubble

The eyes of the sports world turned to the NBA when it announced that it would be resuming the rest of its season in a bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

And now that the players aren't allowed to leave as they prepare for the resumption of the season, interest and curiosity about the bubble are at an all-time high.

But even with the little information we have, the bubble is far from perfect. Here are eight ways we'd improve how the NBA is handling this incredibly weird situation. 

1. Televise All Basketball-Related Activities

Teams are currently practicing in the bubble while following strict protocol to make sure that they are able to prepare for the season in a safe and healthy way. And with there being so few other options for live sports right now, it would be great if the NBA would televise some of the preparations that teams are doing to get ready for the playoff push.

The teams participating in the bubble would object profusely to an idea like this, as they would not want any team secrets being leaked to the media and then to potential playoff opponents. But compromise is important in any situation in life, and there is a compromise that could work here as well. Instead of broadcasting practices, just give us live video of shootarounds and activities that do not include vital information.

With the alternatives for live sports right now being soccer, golf and eSports, both of which are fine but not quite the NBA, watching Ben Simmons miss jump shot after jump shot in shootaround would be just the thing to whet the appetite of any NBA fan before the bubble games tip off.

2. Focus on the Bubble Drama

NBA gossip is some of the best drama in the world of sports, as the Player Empowerment Era is in full swing. The tampering between fellow NBA players and executives could be off the charts as they're all stuck inside the bubble. 

And with every player still participating in this season cooped up in one confined area, there would be no better use of reporters who were not able to get into the bubble than to track down some of the wildest stories from within the bubble.

Before the first game has even started, women have tweeted about being invited into the bubble to spend time with unnamed players. Why Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania haven't found out who those players are and how often James Harden can be blamed is beyond us. 

This is a once in a lifetime summer camp of sorts for some of the best athletes in the world, and not getting every scoop from the bubble feels like a huge missed opportunity.

3. Give Us More bubble interviews

Beyond the gossip, it would be nice to hear from more of the players and coaches who are inside of the bubble getting ready for the sprint to the playoffs. There are, of course, concerns with conducting interviews related to the coronavirus pandemic that has forced the NBA into the bubble in the first place. But there are ways to get more interviews with players done without breaking social distancing rules or other guidelines set forth to make this idea work.

The Basketball Tournament, the million-dollar winner-take-all tournament that takes place each summer, provided a great blueprint for interviewing that the NBA should follow. The sideline reporter assigned to that tournament was given an area that contained a microphone on an elongated stand that allowed her to measure the distance between herself and interviewees during pregame and postgame interviews.

While Rudy Gobert could very well destroy the NBA season a second time by touching all of the equipment, that setup could allow for the few reporters who have been granted entry into the bubble to find out more about what players think about bubble life.

4. Get the players some better food

The best meme to come out of the NBA bubble has to be the NBA players' reactions to the mediocre food that they have been served in quarantine. While it all looks nutritious and like perfectly reasonable food, we can't blame professional athletes who are used to a certain standard of living for wanting things more to their liking. Beyond the humor of it all, players have started getting themselves in trouble in their quest for their preferred food.

Kelly Oubre tweeted that it was possible to get food delivered to the bubble, which led to Sacramento King Richaun Holmes inadvertently leaving the bubble to pick up his delivery.

That slip-up forced Holmes into a 10-day quarantine. A way to prevent this would be to provide NBA players with more options, or at least some things better suited for a bunch of young guys who probably enjoy their food with a little more pizazz.

5. Let the Players Have Disney World To Themselves

Disney World has reopened amid everything going on with the NBA bubble, which is another massive disappointment surrounding the restart of the campaign. It would have been wildly entertaining to have the NBA take a socially distant trip to Disney World prior to the start of the seeding games, with comprehensive testing and precautions taken after the trip to the otherwise empty parks.

And, like we said our first point, televise it all! We want to see our favorite NBA players with mickey ears on their damn heads. 

Of course, there is still time to right this wrong. Maybe the team that wins the NBA Finals could be rewarded with a trip to the park of their choosing with the park closed off to the public as they celebrate.

Would a shirtless JR Smith successfully take down a drink at every country at Epcot if the Lakers win the title? We'd love to see him try and read all about it after the fact.

6. Demote the worst teams to worse hotels

Promotion and relegation is a concept used in sports leagues in virtually every country but America, where the worst teams in each league are sent to lower divisions while the best teams are promoted to higher ones. And while promoting and relegating playoff teams wouldn’t be a good idea, using promotion and relegation as it pertains to each team’s hotel assignments would be a great motivator for each squad.

There are many tiers of hotels on the Walt Disney World Resort property, from the more budget-friendly All-Star resorts to the upscale Grand Floridian. Imagining the teams that finish the regular season with the eighth seed in their conference at some of the less glamorous hotels, while top seeds got to spread out at the nicest properties that Disney has to offer would prompt teams with seeding to gain to play their absolute hardest before the start of the playoffs.

And with home-court advantage no longer on the line, hotel arrangements could serve as a nice motivational substitute.

7. Introduce team challenges

College football bowl season is probably the closest thing that we have to the current NBA bubble situation, where teams are shipped to the same neutral site to compete in front of little-to-no fans. And in the days leading up to those college bowl games, activities are planned between the participating teams at those sites, like bowling tournaments and dance challenges and similarly cringeworthy contests.

In the NBA bubble, it would be fun to see players compete in fun — and safe — activities against one another while they kill time waiting for the season to restart. Finding out which player in the bubble is the best at NBA 2K20, who's the best karaoke singer or who is the sharpest at trivia would be fun for fans, and probably a lot more fun for players than sitting in their hotel rooms as well.

Televise these stunts, and you’ve got programming better than whatever the MLS is Back Tournament is.

8. Live stream everything

Perhaps the most important thing that could be done in the NBA bubble is live-streaming everything that happens in the public spaces there. Reality shows like Big Brother have made watching competitors coexist in a space together incredibly popular. Throw some of the world’s most famous people into the mix, and it would be appointment viewing during a time where there is very little appointment viewing otherwise.

Imagine, if you will, being able to see J.J. Redick shotgun a beer in an ice bath before he tweeted it out or the moment that Richaun Holmes stepped out of the bubble to pick up his meal. Seeing those moments in real-time would cause a palpable buzz on social media and keep people talking about the NBA well before their games are scheduled to start.

The NBA couldn't charge enough money for a 24/7 feed of the NBA. 

A constant bubble stream would also give fans insight into which players are trying to stay out and about during the remainder of the season and which are staying holed up in their rooms to preserve their health. That information could help NBA bettors get a clearer picture of who to back and who to stay away from as the rest of the campaign plays out in the Sunshine State.

Photo: Getty Images