Just when the world needed the spirit of live sports entertainment the most, the NBA was forced to suspend its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, it seemed grim for the season to return this year. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the good folks at Disney have been working on a solution.
On Saturday, the NBA revealed that the league and the Players Association are in talks with Disney about using the company's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex—a facility located on the Disney World complex near Orlando, Florida—to host the remaining games of the 2019-2020 season.
According to the NBA's chief communications officer, Mike Bass, the league plans to use the property as "a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing." If all the wrinkles are ironed out, the NBA could return as early as late July. Although this is exciting for fans, the NBA maintains that its top concern is the safety and health of their players.
"Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved," the statement reads. "We are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."
Florida has been a refuge for sports leagues and sports entertainment companies that are willing to weather the pandemic to put on a show. Since social distancing was ordered, the WWE has broadcasted fan-free televised events from its performance center in Orlando while UFC 249 was held at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Additionally, Disney has a vested interest in making sure the NBA returns. ESPN—a Disney-owned tentpole—holds broadcasting rights to NBA games alongside WarnerMedia. The NBA Finals are also broadcasted on Disney’s ABC. The halt in live sports has impacted ESPN's programming and Disney's overall ability to generate viewership while stalling the company's advertising dollars.