'This ain't it': NBA players react to being in the Walt Disney World bubble

Some have shared photos of lovely views and elaborate in-room setups, but most don't seem to be getting the "Most Magical Place On Earth" vibes.
Image: NBA Restart 2020 - All-Access
A general overall view of the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat practice courts being set up as part of the NBA Restart 2020 in Orlando, Florida, on July 2, 2020.Joe Murphy / NBAE via Getty Images

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By Ahiza García-Hodges

Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell had been in the NBA's Walt Disney World "bubble" for less than 24 hours when he posted something that resembled uncooked chicken to his Instagram account.

"This ain't it," Harrell wrote on Thursday alongside a vomiting emoji. "Yea I'm bout to starve out here in Orlando."

Harrell is one of the many NBA players who have entered the isolation period at Disney World ahead of the league's July 30 relaunch, which kicks off with a game between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans. Upon their arrival, they'll isolate in their hotel rooms until they receive two negative COVID-19 tests that are at least 24 hours apart.

And Harrell's not the only one who has found the situation challenging.

Many players are documenting their experiences on social media. Some have shared photos of lovely views and elaborate in-room setups. But most don't seem to be getting the "Most Magical Place On Earth" vibes as they post about lackluster meals and poor Wi-Fi, with some commenting it feels like they're going to serve a prison sentence.

Among the more shocking posts out of the bubble was a photo posted by Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones that showed a dead cockroach. There were also photos of meals that drew comparisons on social media to airplane food. The Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid showed his meal and said he was "definitely losing 50 lbs."

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The posts highlight the ongoing challenges that the NBA and other sports leagues in general face in trying to create a safe environment for players while also pushing to resume play. While the basketball league is counting on daily testing and maintaining the integrity of the bubble, its efforts are complicated by the fact that Disney World is located in Florida, which is having large spikes in positive COVID-19 cases.

Attempting to keep players isolated in their rooms and to minimize their contact with others means food options are limited until they've completed their quarantine.

“During the required quarantine period when teams first arrive to the NBA Campus at Orlando, meals are delivered directly to hotel rooms," NBA spokesperson Michael Bass said. "After clearing quarantine, players will also have access to various restaurants on campus and delivery options to choose from ... There is never a shortage of food options – players can always request additional food by speaking with their team nutritionists.”

The player complaints come as the broader U.S. sports scene continues to sputter in its efforts to resume play or plan for the coming seasons. Major League Soccer, which also has a player bubble, kicked off its season Wednesday, but has already had two teams pull out over positive cases. Some sports leagues that are still not in season have already started confronting the reality that they will need to alter plans. The Big Ten collegiate conference said Thursday that its season would be confined to in-conference games, and the NFL cut its preseason from four to two weeks.

Food wasn't the only issue affecting the players. The bubble is meant to protect them from COVID-19, but it will also keep them isolated from their families for several weeks. They won't be able to have guests until the second round of playoffs, which could mean more than 50 days apart.

The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James tweeted that he'd "[j]ust left the crib to head to the bubble. S--- felt like I’m headed to do a bid man! Fr. Hated to leave the #JamesGang."

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers posted photos of him saying bye to his family and echoed the sentiment that heading to the bubble felt like he was going to prison.

Being in the bubble will involve isolation, daily COVID-19 testing and safety protocols, such as maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask.

It's an unusual situation but some posts seemed to show players actually enjoying themselves — or at least adjusting to their new normal.

Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder posted a limited-edition Away suitcase outfitted with two padded wine carriers. The Lakers' Kyle Kuzma posted videos of a sandwich being toasted on an in-room countertop grill. Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics said his halal meals were "getting better and better."

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell gave a quick tour of his hotel's game room, which he said was "elite," while other players showed their stacks of video games and multiple gaming consoles.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Patrick Beverley might have posted the most optimistic videos as he showed his lake view and in-room setup, which included a fuzzy blanket, several types of sage, a UV phone sanitizer, a framed family photo and a stack of more than 15 packs of white T-shirts.

"The bubble what you make it," Beverley said.