Life in the NBA bubble—it's been providing us with a steady source of amusement since earlier this month when Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid walked into the Orlando facility clad in a full hazmat suit. (Which, respect.)
Quarantined from the rest of the world in one of three Disney World resorts with some 300 fellow athletes, plus coaching staff and bemused reporters, the whole operation is basically a "basketball camp for millionaires," as USA Today put it, the NBA's biggest star likening it to his days playing competitive basketball as a kid. "When I was growing up, you had AAU days, and once the AAU season is over you go back to your respective cities," LeBron James explained, "and then AAU season starts back up again that next spring and it's like you never left."
Though, we'd argue this is a bit more akin to college.
With hours to fill when they're not practicing, consuming the much-dissected watermelon and pita chips on offer in the airplane-style meals or submitting to nightly COVID-19 testing, the league's multi-millionaires are whiling away their days shotgunning cans of Bud Light, having socially distant dance parties on their respective balconies (entering each other's hotel rooms is strictly verboten), fishing and logging so very many hours on Xbox.
"I've been playing video games with other guys on the team," Lakers forward Anthony Davis told the paper. "Everyone has brought their gaming system so we're online playing against each other or being teammates."
One major thing that's missing: their loved ones. Though Miami Heat personnel hung family photos in the team room ("It touched me seeing my daughter on the wall, and I'm sure it touched other players as well," forward Jae Crowder said), the players are still facing a reality of months away from spouses, kids and parents.
And just weeks in, they've already had to make some tough calls. Guard Alex Caruso skipped his sister's Texas wedding to avoid missing games with his Lakers teammates and there's an outside shot Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward and Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr. could miss the upcoming births of their fourth and second children, respectively.
Though, as Hawyard notes, leaving the bubble for such an occasion is a pretty easy call. "I've been at the birth of every one of my children, and I think there are more important things in life," the dad to daughters Bernadette, 5, Charlie, 4, and Nora, 19 months, told ESPN of his intentions to be at wife Robyn Hayward's side when she welcomes their son this September. "So we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
Rules permit players to bust out of the bubble for less than a week, provided they quarantine for four days upon their return and test negative for COVID each day, with allowable leaves including situations like the birth of a child or death of a family member. For everyone else, there's texting, FaceTime (Hayward told ESPN he hopes to pitch in with bedtime remotely) and, perhaps, a good, distracting video game session.
Here's a look at the teammates the NBA's biggest stars have had to leave behind.