In spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. While life as most knew it was put on hold, so were major league sports, including the NBA. The 2020 NBA playoffs were in flux. The league had suspended play in March and was trying to recover what it could of the 2019–2020 season.
League leaders met with officials at Walt Disney World to develop a fix. The two sides determined the solution would be to create the now well-known NBA-Disney Bubble. The games took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and the teams were housed in on-site Disney hotels. The Bubble allowed the league to host its playoffs—sans fans—while protecting the 22 teams and Disney Cast Members involved.
O’Neill alum Zachary McClure (BSCJ’16) was at Disney’s Yacht Club resort during the playoffs, serving on Disney’s security detail.
“We had six NBA teams staying at that property,” he recalls. “We provided access control and credential checks, made sure reporters didn’t get into private areas, and helped ensure the teams were following health rules, among other things.”
McClure says everyone inside the Bubble wore Magic Bands—smart bracelets that typically store Disney guest information. But rather than tracking reservations, these Magic Bands tracked each person’s daily COVID check-ins to make sure they followed procedures.
Access into and out of the Bubble was very limited and tightly controlled.
“We had to be the eyes for Disney and for the NBA so we could maintain the bubble,” he says. “No one was allowed in or out, without following certain protocols, including COVID testing. They really wanted to maintain the integrity of the bubble.”