When the NBA players in Oklahoma City left the floor on that fateful night in March, we knew this wasn’t going to be good.
The next day, the Big Ten shut their tournament down, with the rest of college hoops doing the same. That’s when we knew life wasn’t going to be the same. COVID-19 has caused our world to stop. We lost our sports. Keeping it in perspective though, losing live sports wasn’t the end of the world, COVID-19 has caused many throughout our state, our country, and our world to lose much more than just watching their favorite teams play. Insert the bubbles here.
The NHL and NBA spent the summer trying to figure out how they would be able to re-start their season and crown a champion for the 2019-2020 seasons and the bubble ideas began. The NHL released their plan for the “Hub Cities” first, followed up by the NBA’s decision to relocate to Disney World and here we are. As we look back, I think it’s important to take highlight just how well both leagues delivered their product in such uncertain times.
NO HITCH WITH NHL HUB CITIES
What should we expect in an era of the unexpected? Nothing is “business as usual” in today’s world and while many shunned the ideas of these leagues re-starting at the beginning, I for one was very much looking forward to seeing how they would pull this off. Both leagues did a phenomenal job in their presentation. The NHL Hub Cities had much larger arenas, so they decided to tarp the sections viewable on TV with their own branding. Although, I am a fan (I’m surprised by this too) of MLB’s teams using the cardboard cut-outs of fans, I didn’t mind the branded tarps in the viewable sections. The ability to compliment the broadcasts with extra cameras and angles made the viewing experience even better. The NHL relocated their entire operation to Edmonton and Toronto and they did so without a hitch (excluding Mike Mulberry from this).
NBA MAGIC BUBBLE WORKED
On the NBA side, Disney truly became the magic kingdom for hoops fans. Although the implementation of a 22-team invitation to the bubble raised some questions, there was drama in the bubble seeding games. The nation got an opportunity to watch a Phoenix Suns team rise from the ashes with an unblemished record of 8-0 only to fall short to a red-hot Portland Trailblazers team and a Memphis Grizzlies squad that was just trying to tread water. The NBA implemented virtual fans in on the viewable side of the court behind the benches to make it feel as if there truly were fans in the stands. They also added the ability for player’s families to be on-site which I thought was an excellent idea for the guys. I can’t overstate this next point nor can I emphasize it enough: THE NBA BUBBLE DJs WERE AMAZING. Whoever was behind the boards during these games made the game sound like a live arena. The pumped-in crowd noise was perfect and whoever those people are, get them a raise ASAP! The sideline rail camera was a fun element for viewing as well, very reminiscent of what the NCAA uses during the Final Four.
The entire idea of re-starting the leagues was a crapshoot from the start. But even with all of the health & safety concerns, combined with the logistical nightmare, both the NHL and NBA delivered an A-plus product to sports fans across the country. The COVID-19 protocols put in place worked to keep everyone safe and keep the leagues alive during very uncertain times. The viewing experience for fans, was top-notch. We weren’t sure what we were going to see when these leagues started back up, but I can tell you this, both exceeded any and all expectations.
Anthony Bellino is the host Xs & BrOs weekday mornings from 6am-9am on the Michigan Sports Network.
Image from Sporting News