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April 29, 2020

Report: Disney World named a potential location for NBA return

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Wide-World-Of-Sports_042920_usat Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

General overall view of globe at the entrance to ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Walt Disney World has been floated as a potential venue for the NBA's return if the league is able to resume this season, according to a new report from Shams Charania of The Athletic. It's a small world after all.

In a video shared by Stadium, Charania claims Disney has already offered their property to host the NBA's potential return: 

There have been a number of scenarios floated by the NBA and other sports leagues in their attempts to get business back up and running during a pandemic. Major League Baseball has reportedly considered playing exclusively in the state of Arizona, UFC wanted to have their own island for fights, and locations like Las Vegas have been brought up as a viable host for NBA teams and games. Is Disney World more or less insane than any of those suggestions?

Frankly, it might make more sense than the majority of ideas that have leaked to the public so far. Their Wide World of Sports complex is built to host tournaments and is already set up to broadcast games, with space to practice, play, and train for all 30 teams on a dramatically altered schedule. Add on the hotel accommodations and sprawling private property, and you can envision a scenario where the various teams could set up base camps to settle in for a long-ish haul and still maintain some level of social distancing outside of the competition.

On the realism scale, you also don't have to do much more than follow the money to understand why this location might be given a leg up over some others. The league's primary broadcast partner, ESPN, is owned by Disney, with both the parent company and the broadcast company looking to jumpstart business during this crisis. If Disney can't safely reopen their park in the near future, using the property to host the return of live sports would be a huge win for them, especially considering that it wouldn't require major updates to their existing infrastructure.

But safety remains the biggest question mark for the NBA and businesses across the board. As Rudy Gobert's positive test showed in mid-March, all it takes is one positive test to send the league (and shortly thereafter, the country) into a state of lockdown. A search for a vaccine and improved testing is still ongoing around the world, and setting up at a remote location would not just require serious prep time on behalf of the NBA and medical professionals, but a coordinated response plan in the event something went south.

Beyond that, you would be asking players, coaches, and various essential personnel to bunker down in hotels away from their homes and families for an indefinite period of time, which is a huge ask. Fans would scoff at that sacrifice for players making millions of dollars, perhaps rightfully so, but it's a different ask for officials, members of the broadcast crew, and even lower-level members of coaching staffs, assuming they'd all be part of such an arrangement.

It's a potential lifeline, but I wouldn't put on your Mickey Mouse ears just yet, let's put it that way.

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