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Is that an NBA Experience joke? Yes, yes it is. What can we say, some times the jokes write themselves. We’re not here to talk about the Disney Springs NBA experience, as there’s not a lot to say about it. Wow, the jokes just keep coming! When we say the NBA at Disney World, we’re talking about the remaining games and playoffs being played at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Sports. While the ink may still be drying on the contract, we couldn’t think of a better time to look at what the NBA at Disney World could look like. Lace-up your hightops we’re going to break some ankles on this one!

ESPN Wide World of Sports to Host NBA at Disney World

Current State

We have an agreement. Well, kind of. More like we have an agreement in principle for the NBA at Disney World. Adam Silver (NBA Commissioner) and the rest of the NBA have agreed if the NBA moves forward with restarting the league they will do so at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports. Sorry Las Vegas, you may have gotten Space 220’s chef, but you’re getting beating out Disney this time. On May 27, 2020, the NBA released that they agreed in principle with The Walt Disney Company to move the remaining regular seasons games and playoffs to Disney World.

The baseline for the agreed would have the NBA using all three arenas at the Disney’s Wide World of Sports beginning at the end of July. The three arenas are the HP Field House, The Visa Center, and the Arena, which could accommodate up to 13 courts for games and practice. Additionally, some reports are hinting that arenas in the Orlando area, including high school arenas and UCF (University of Central Florida) facilities, could be used as practice and training facilities or even potential games.

All Systems Go?

Kind of, but not really. But, there’s always a but. While hosting the NBA at Disney World for the remainder of the 2020 season is agreed upon between the two companies, nothing has been finalized with the players. At the time of writing, the NBA is still in negotiations with NBA Players Associations on what a restart of the season would entail. From our understanding, everything is on the table, from playing a few regulars seasons to a modified playoff schedule and even a potential March Madness-style tournament. There are up to four different scenarios of how the NBA at Disney World could be played. NBA insiders like Brian Windhorst of ESPN are saying the NBA is leaning towards going straight into the playoffs, as it would require less people.

Beyond the games, the two parties still have to agree upon a pay structure for the players, along with player safety and housing. All of which we can assume to be close to wrapping up, as it is known both the players and league want, more like have to, resume play. From our understanding, a large portion of the money the NBA receives is from TV contracts and a majority of the money is paid in advance. If the NBA is unable to resume play a portion of the money that has been paid to the league and players would have to be returned. Additionally, the head of the players association, Chris Paul, and Adam Silver have been daily since the season paused to work on a restarting plan. We should officially know by Friday May 29th, as the NBA owners are meeting to vote on restarting the league. In the DVC Duo house, we’re saying it’s all systems go.

Disney World Impact

It’s the question on every Disneyphile’s mind. What does this mean for upcoming trips to Walt Disney World? With the NBA at Disney World, it’s safe to assume the players will be staying at the resorts in the area. What is unknown is if they will be staying at a Disney resort or one of the many offsite locations. These are details the league and players are still negotiating. If we had to guess, we would expect the players to stay at Disney resort.

Doing a little back of the napkin math, we could assume there would be anywhere from 900 to 1200 people that would need hotel rooms. Rumors have been everywhere from the players staying Caribbean Beach to the All-Star Resorts or Coronado Springs. In the DVC Duo house, we believe the front runner has to be Coronado Springs (with the Gran Destino Tower) for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is the capacity. With the addition of the Gran Destino Tower, the resort has 2,384 guest rooms. Additionally, the Gran Destino Tower was designed for conferences and mainly expanding Disney’s offering of suites for executives. With the resorts 50 plus suites on top of the regular rooms, Coronado Springs is isolated from all other areas. Whereas, a resort-like Caribbean Beach has a walkway that connects it to Disney’s Riviera Resort, along with the Skyliner passing through. Lastly, doing a little digging, it looks like Coronado Springs is the only Disney resort without availability starting in July.

If a Disney resort were to be used for housing the NBA teams we would expect any guests reservations at the chosen resort to be moved. Historically, if Disney needs to move guest reservations it would usually involve some type of upgrade or compensation for the change. With Disney reopening with at much lower capacity there will be plenty of rooms for all current reservations to be moved.

Game Time!

Let’s fast forward to a time where the NBA at Disney World is a real thing. The big question becomes will guests be able to go to a game. With the main arena holding up to 8,000 spectators (2,000 if you assuming 25% capacity for social distancing), we’re assuming that it would be a hard no mainly for player and guest safety. Similar to how we would not expect to see any of the players in the parks while games were taking place. Sorry, Brooke Lopez, you may have to plan another trip. Now, a lot could change between now and start of the NBA at Disney World, but the only way we would see guests being able to see a game live is if a vaccination became available for COVID-19.

Our Thoughts

A match made in heaven. It’s the perfect pairing and makes sense for all parties. Even before the global crisis the NBA and Bob Iger had a close relationship, and with Bob now back at the helm, we’re sure negotiations were pretty straight forward. The one interesting piece will be the TV rights, as currently they are held by TNT, ESPN, ABC, and NBA TV. Can you spot the odd duck out? With everything taking place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports it will be interesting to see how TNT handles their portion of the rights. While we got to split, time to work on our free throws!

UPDATE: On June 4, 2020, the NBA board of governors approved the return of the NBA season at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Starting on July 31, 2020, 22 NBA teams will return play. Teams will be assembling in their homes towns for a one-week training camp starting on June 30, 2020.

On July 7, 2020, all 22 teams will travel to Orlando to be able to quarantine for two weeks before starting practice and exhibition games. When the season kicks off the teams will play 8 games for playoff seeding purposes. A play-in tournament may be used for the teams who have not already secured a playoff spot. The season and playoffs will run from July 31, 2020, and end no later than October 12, 2020.

All signs still point to Coronado Springs being the resort to house the teams. Each team is able to bring up 35 people, making for a total 770 people plus NBA officials and staff that would need rooms. Players will not be bringing family members. Final sign-off from the NBA will occur on Friday June 5, 2020. All signs point to approval.