When pro sports leagues began stopping in mid-March, the first one to press pause was basketball's NBA.
On March 11, after Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the league halted everything. Until... well, nobody really knew for sure. According to the league's statement at the time: "The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic."
Which basically meant, We're going to plan and wait for the right moment to come back.
And now, that right moment has arrived! Last Thursday, the league announced a plan to restart their season in July. And the place that it is going to happen? Walt Disney World in Florida.
The NBA and Mickey Mouse? Let's take a closer look at what this unusual partnership is going to look like.
Why Disney World?
We agree that it sounds kind of odd, but this choice wasn't made so that LeBron and Kawhi could ride Space Mountain in between games.
As we explained in this post, the chosen city could've been a few different places. What is most important is that teams are all located in one to four hubs or bubble cities. This reduces travel, making it easy to ensure that players are regularly tested for the virus.
So why Disney World? The weather is good, ESPN's Wide World Of Sports facility has several basketball courts that teams can play on, and there are lots of hotels in Orlando that the players can stay at. The NBA believes that it is an ideal location to finish the season.
22 teams to finish season
There are 30 teams in the NBA, but the 8 teams with the worst records as of March 11 won't be going to Orlando. Here are the 22 that will...
These teams will play 8 more regular season games starting July 31. For the 12 teams in bold above who are automatically going to the playoffs (including the defending champion Raptors!), these will serve as a warmup.
But the other ten teams will be fighting for a change to qualify for the final four playoff spots. (The NBA playoffs has 16 teams every year.) So we can expect the competition to be intense very quickly.
Once the regular season finally ends some time in August, the playoffs will begin.
What will this look like?
That's a great question. It's all a big experiment.
The teams will play in arenas without fans. So the incredible energy that we're used to seeing and hearing during playoff basketball won't be there.
But the players will be. And athletes are driven to perform, no matter what the circumstances.