Katherine Wells: I remember when the NBA was like, “Basketball is canceled”—it was like, Oh my God, this is a real thing.
Anderson: Absolutely. It resonated that we were on the precipice of something bad. If the NBA is taking this seriously, if they’re going to call off games and suspend the season, then obviously this is something to be reckoned with. Back in March, and even into April, there was real concern that the NBA wasn’t going to come back. There were so many hurdles to clear; the testing capacity was a concern; and it wasn’t clear that the players wanted to return. But it was inevitable as things started going along that we were going to get some basketball. The broadcast partners obviously wanted to do it. And then it became clear the testing capacity wouldn’t be a problem; they were able to move forward. And so here we are. The NBA is going to open training camp July 9, as far as we know.
Hamblin: They’re doing that in their hometowns, and then they’re going to go on to Orlando?
Anderson: No, the training camps are even going to take place in Orlando. They’re going to start moving down that direction. They’re trying to get people, you know, into a central location as soon as possible. So even before training camps start, these teams are going to be down there. They’re going to stagger their arrivals, but they’re going to do these training camps down there all together at the same time over the course of a few days, July 9 through July 11.
Hamblin: Why Orlando?
Anderson: It obviously helps that Disney is the league’s biggest customer. Disney pays, like, $1.4 billion a year to broadcast games on ESPN and ABC. A lot of players already live down there. Orlando’s sunny, family-friendly, and has no state income tax. And then think about this: Florida is run by a governor who’s much more welcoming of business and getting things back to normal. They’ve already had a number of live sporting events there: NASCAR, UFC, WWE. In Florida right now, NASCAR is already planning to allow fans to attend races.
Hamblin: Are there going to be fans at NBA games?
Anderson: No. But as teams get eliminated, as we get deeper into the postseason, family members will be allowed. And supposedly there’s going to be three [family members] per player.
Hamblin: So they’re going to be playing to a mostly empty stadium. Is the energy going to feel similar? Is it going to be sort of like practice?
Anderson: From what I understand, they’re talking about possibly pumping in crowd noise. So there are a whole bunch of alternatives that they’re bandying about right now. That’s one of those things that are still to be determined.
Hamblin: Okay, what do we have here in terms of contingency for the inevitable—which is that people will get the virus and then they’ll be rubbing their sweaty faces against the backs, shoulders, and potentially faces of other players? What’s the plan when someone gets a positive test?