“The Most Magical Place on Earth” became the safest place on Earth when the NBA sequestered its players into a bubble, a different kind of live-and-play so that the league could finish its season during a pandemic.
GQ’s Taylor Rooks detailed the highs and lows of 300-plus players living inside the bubble.
“It was Groundhog Day, I swear to God it was,” then-Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers told GQ. “Every morning I woke up, I did the (COVID-19 check-in) app, ran downstairs, did the testing, went to watch film with my coaches, watch film with the players, practice, and rode my bike. And then I was back in the room. Every day.”
Boston Celtics player Jayson Tatum said, “You really just had to accept the fact that, man, I’m going to see these four walls every day.”
After a 141-day hiatus, the league convened at Walt Disney World near Orlando and stayed in three of its hotels with games played 10 minutes away and off-time spent at the property’s eateries, bars and pool.
They drank together. They watched other teams’ games together. They drank together. They played board games. They drank together.
“I know most people in here are just drinking every night because there’s nothing else to do,” Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas, a former alcoholic, told GQ. “And at some point, a lot of people are going to turn into alcoholics.”
That was a boon for Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum’s own pinot noir blend, McCollum Heritage 91. He stored bottles in his 65-degree room and delivered dozens of them to colleagues.
GQ shared moments such as Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant hearing his daughter say “Dada” for the first time on FaceTime and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri threatening to continue Peloton workouts a floor above the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard if they met in the playoffs.
They never did. The Los Angeles Lakers won the championship against the Miami Heat. When the Heat’s Bam Adebayo went for his daily walk, he had to pass the restaurant where the Lakers were celebrating.