When the NBA returns to action on July 30th, it will be a relief to basketball fans across the globe after four months without basketball. That the league is staging its remaining regular-season games and then entire playoff tournament at Walt Disney World is a little bit ironic, though, because one of the most magical parts of the basketball fan experience will be missing from the big event.
The NBA’s superstars are second-to-none in terms of celebrity and fame — can you imagine any baseball or football player getting a 10-part, smash hit ESPN documentary series? — but their stardom doesn’t stop them from paying special individual attention to some of their youngest fans. In the video below, which went viral over the weekend, NBA superstars Chris Paul of the Oklahoma Thunder and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks take the time to not only say hello to their excited young fans but also give them the sort of memories (and unique collectibles) that’ll last a lifetime.
CP3 and Trae took the time to have a special moment with their fans ❤️
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 27, 2020
To keep players, team employees, and everyone else vital to the games safe from COVID-19, the NBA is imposing a strict “bubble” around its set-up in Orlando. The three Disney Resort hotels where players and employees are staying will be off-limits to other travelers, the gyms where they practice will have as few visitors as possible, and the games themselves will be played in empty arenas. Already, 16 players have tested positive for the coronavirus.
No fans will be permitted to watch in person, and while that’s absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it will no doubt rob the games of some of their excitement and drama; players feed off of a crowd’s energy, from the moment lineups are announced to the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Going to any NBA game is a dream come true to kids across the country, and meeting their basketball heroes tends to be one of the most common requests for children in programs like the Make-A-Wish foundation. The late Kobe Bryant alone met with more than 200 kids through Make-A-Wish.
Watching basketball — so long as everyone stays safe — will be a gift to tens of millions of people this summer. Let’s hope that it can start making kids’ dreams come true again sooner rather than later.