Social interaction and protocol fatigue could threaten the NBA season

AS THE NBA season gets underway and questions swirl of what it will take to complete it, a league official pointed to a key variable in the season completed 74 days ago in the Orlando, Florida, bubble.

In the 3½ months at the Walt Disney World Resort, security officials guarded entrances and law enforcement monitored the perimeter, helping to maintain a contained space to protect 22 teams.

But those efforts meant everyone sequestered inside was limited from the social interaction aspects of normalcy.

“It was probably a complaint for every staff member there, not just players,” said the league official, who, while on campus in Orlando, heard that lack of social interaction — specifically the lack of sex — was one of the top issues from bubble residents. “Certainly, it was something I heard from players, I heard from staff, I heard from team staff.”

For the intense daily compliance demanded of everyone in the bubble, the tight measures implemented there helped mitigate an uncertainty that most concerned team, league and health officials going in: social interaction. That’s not to say protocols weren’t broken, but there were few violations. In the end, the bubble’s restrictions eased initial worries, and the NBA ultimately crowned a champion, finishing a season without any positive player tests.

“It was the safest place probably in America,” noted an NBA head athletic trainer of a team in the bubble. “We’re going to be in a regular environment now, so, yeah, there’s concern …”

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