Orlando and Walt Disney World have emerged as the “clear frontrunner” to host a potential NBA return this summer, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter links). “All the momentum” is going Orlando’s way, Amick notes.
The Athletic’s report is the latest in a serious of signals that Orlando is gaining traction as a likely “bubble” location for the resumption of the 2019/20 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said as much on a TV appearance earlier this week and Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link) issued a similar report on Tuesday afternoon.
While the NBA is aiming to complete its season, it almost certainly won’t do so with teams playing in their home arenas, since the league doesn’t want players and teams traveling all over the country. As such, the likeliest scenario is a summer return in one or two centralized locations. Las Vegas, Houston, and Toronto are among the other sites that have been mentioned as possibilities.
However, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports first outlined in April, Walt Disney World stands out as an appealing option for several reasons. It has more than enough hotel rooms to accommodate up to 30 NBA teams, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is capable of housing several, broadcast-ready basketball courts.
Furthermore, as Smith noted, the NBA has an existing broadcast with Disney, which owns ABC and ESPN; Walt Disney World is private property, which would be useful in creating the necessary “bubble”; Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was also one of the first government officials to announce his state would reopen for professional sports (without fans in attendance).
Even if the NBA moves forward with playing games in Walt Disney World, it’s possible a second neutral site will be used as well, tweets Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.