Outside the NBA Bubble: Callie Rivers Curry on All the Ways She's Protecting Husband Seth Curry From FOMO

Callie's husband, brother and father are all in Orlando while she holds down the fort at home for daughter Carter, gladly leaning on her sprawling basketball family for support.

By Natalie Finn, Alli Rosenbloom Aug 20, 2020 7:00 PMTags
Watch: 5 Things to Know About the NBA Bubble

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing how we do, well, everything, the NBA was forced to come up with a new game plan to finish their 2019-2020 season.

The solution—the much-discussed bubble—saw some 300 players from the league's top 22 teams sequestered in one of three Disney World resorts for up to three months as they strive to be crowned champions of this long, strange season.

But what about the those on the outside feeling as if their bubble had burst? With their partners locked down in Florida, scores of women have been left to navigate work responsibilities, bedtime routines, middle-of-the-night feedings, meal prep and, in some cases, even childbirth without their teammate. And now they're speaking exclusively with E! News about that new normal. These are their basketball diaries.

When the NBA first floated this "bubble" idea, count Callie Rivers Curry among the initial skeptics.

"My first thought, truthfully, was great," the wife of Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry told E! News in an exclusive interview. She figured that Seth and his fellow players could at least earn back a percentage of the salaries they'd lost when the NBA abruptly suspended its season on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"But I truly did not think it was going to work," the mother of 2-year-old daughter Carter Lynn Curry admitted. "I thought he would probably be gone for, like, five days and there would be too many positive tests, and he would be back. But obviously," she added, laughing, "I was wrong."

Next she remembered thinking, "Whatever, it's 57 days, it's not that long."

Basketball Wives: Where Are They Now?

The Mavs and 21 other teams reported to the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando in early July.


"Then after the first week," Callie said, "I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be a very long time.'"

A former professional volleyball player who was born into a basketball family (and married into one as well), she understands the dedication it takes to consistently compete at the top of one's game. She's certainly used to Seth's hectic travel schedule during normal NBA seasons.  And through her membership in the philanthropic National Basketball Wives Association and work on behalf of the Social Change Fund and the voter-registration campaign I Am a Voter, she knows you've got to really dig in if you want to get a job done right.


Still, while Callie is "extremely thankful for how the NBA has handled it and made it super safe for the guys to be there," telling us that the league has done "an insanely good job" in her view, this is easily the longest her husband has been away from her and their daughter for any one stretch. And he actually could be gone until October should the Mavs advance deeper into the playoffs.

So, adjustments have had to be made. Callie has shared with us how she and Seth have made this bubble business work, whether she and Carter plan to join him once they start allowing a few family members in, and why her situation is a little unique compared to some of the other players' partners who are coping back home.

All in the Family

"I'm super lucky that I have parents—well my dad is also in the bubble—but my mom is out…and Seth's parents are out," Callie explained. A little background: Callie's dad is Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team is playing the Mavericks in the first round, so… Dad vs. Husband, FTW. Moreover, her little brother Austin Rivers, a guard with the Houston Rockets (and Seth's teammate when they played for Duke), is also in the bubble. (This could've been even more complicated, but after a stunning reversal of fortune this season, Seth's brother Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors missed the playoffs by a mile, so no trip to the bubble for them.)

Knowing that some of her fellow parents are out there with a bigger brood, Callie, who in addition to her 24/7 job as Mom maintains a packed schedule related to her charitable endeavors, admitted, "I just can't imagine having multiple kids, or having multiple kids and not having help." Her mother, Kristen Rivers, and Seth's parents, former NBA player Dell Curry and his wife, Sonya, have all been lending indispensable hands, as well as providing much-needed moral support and company. Considering the possibility that this could stretch into almost four months (which, ironically, would mean the number-two seed Clippers are sent packing early), Callie said, "I think it's an extremely long time to be a solo parent."

No Moment Too Small to Share

"Keeping the romance alive is tough in the bubble," Callie said with a laugh. Seth isn't a big talker in general, she noted, but "we're in a bunch of group chats together and then we text—and because of Carter we FaceTime a lot during the day so that he could see her." When she's just doing everyday stuff with their daughter "I'll just FaceTime him and set it up so he can kind of see what's happening. At her age, and I'm sure a lot of moms are going through a similar thing, they change so much. I feel like from even a month and a half ago, when he went in, to now, she's learned so much."

At the end of the day—of all the many days—"trying to keep him engaged with everything that she's going through is probably my main priority. Every now and then we all FaceTime at night, or I'll set him up if I'm eating dinner with my family. I'm in a house with, like, 10 other people, so it's much more like trying to include [Seth] in this little mini party that's happening here so that he doesn't feel like he's [missing out]. I feel like the FOMO can be hard, because they don't have the chance to experience this family time that I'm getting, that I'm super grateful for."

Retro Technology

"Also, I don't know if anyone even uses Snapchat anymore, but we but we use it a lot and so I've been sending him tons of videos and pictures of stuff that she does throughout the day," Callie said. "I'm at my mom's and we live on a lake and there's a pool, so [Carter is] learning more how to swim, she feeds the ducks every morning." Seth has "probably seen her feed the ducks like, 20 times at this point. But I would rather send him more than not enough, so that he knows everything that's happening throughout the day."

Showing Dad They Care

When she talked to E! earlier this month, Callie said they had just sent Seth a care package the week beforehand, the box decorated with original artwork by Carter and the 2-year-old's wee handprint. 

A Rivers Runs Through It

"I don't know if it brings me any comfort," Callie said, but she likes that her husband has his father-in-law and brother-in-law around for that extra touch of so-called normalcy, or at least familiarity, in the strangest of situations. "Austin is in the same hotel as him, so they've been able to see each other more," she shared. "And then once you were able to see people from other hotels, [Seth] was able to go golfing with my dad." And though "I think all three of them are hoping that they're in there till October," boredom does set in. For the younger guys at least.

"My dad seems fine," Callie laughed. "He does not seem bothered by it, he loves the food. He's like, 'there are way bigger problems in the world and I have nothing to complain about.' He seemed very content…but I also think that he doesn't have a 2-year-old kid that he's not seeing. All of his kids are grown-up and he has a son in the bubble, so he has a different situation than most."

She added, "But for the most part, I think all three of them are very happy with how safe the NBA has made it. And I think all three of them are very happy with the platform that the NBA has given them, and all the other players, to talk about some of the issues that are very important to them—and were very important to them before going into the bubble, and especially over quarantine, that messaging hasn't stopped." (Doc Rivers has been outspoken over the past few months about the importance of voting, and he took a knee along with his players during the national anthem in protest of police brutality before the team's first bubble game in July. Austin, father to 23-month-old son Kaden with fiancée Brittany Hotard, left the bubble for an unspecified "family matter" on July 23 but returned two days later, after which he was required to quarantine for four days before he could rejoin his teammates.)

A Well-Rounded View of the Bubble

Overall, Callie said, "it's interesting also to just get the bubble perspective from a bunch of different angles." For instance, Austin is learning Spanish and tries to never miss the daily window during which they're apparently serving the best ice cream he's ever had ("he structures his day around making sure that he can get this ice cream"), and Seth said he might download The Sims, because it would make for a good time-suck. "Also I think they've all been shockingly happy with the barbershop there," she said.

Missing Milestones

While they did get to celebrate Carter's 2nd birthday with a party at home in May, when the season was on hold, they're going to miss Seth's 30th on Aug. 23 and, if the Mavericks keep winning, he'll still be away when the couple's first wedding anniversary rolls around on Sept. 14.


Callie applauds how the bubble has been managed so far, but she knows it's because an exhausting amount of protocol is in place—and she doesn't plan on putting her daughter through it. "I don't see a world where someone wants to do the quarantine process with kids under, like, 4," she said. "So even if they get past the first round, I don't think that myself or Carter will enter the bubble." Which means she's totally torn when she watches her husband play. "It's a really weird thing, cheering for him because you want him and the team to do well, and then also wanting them back home," she acknowledged.

Planning a big summer trip in July or August is usually a pretty safe bet for an NBA player, whose season ends at the latest in June, should he end up in the NBA Finals. But all bets were off this year. "We were supposed to go on our honeymoon this summer, so that didn't happen," Callie said. In fact, they were going to Africa to finally celebrate their mister-and-missus status, but they canceled back in March. "So I feel like I'm first trying to figure out how to make this 30th birthday somewhat special or do something," she continued. "It's also just a really weird time for birthdays, because what do you get someone right now? I'm not going to get you clothes, where are we going? We're not going anywhere! So I have to figure out a way to be super thoughtful and think of something special for his 30th, that's my first goal."

Contingency Plans

"Then seeing how the first round goes, I feel like I'll have to start thinking about our wedding anniversary," Callie said. "And if he happens to be out, I'm hoping that my parents [her mother, at least] or his parents will be able to watch Carter so that maybe we can go somewhere safely. Even if it's just driving somewhere, I feel like just like a weekend away, or a couple of days away, would be so nice for us, especially after the bubble. But I also know he's going to get out and want to be with Carter 24/7, so I'm going to have to convince him into that."

At the same time, she added, "hopefully he's still in the bubble and if that is the case, I'm going to have to get real creative. Austin, my brother's birthday was last week [Aug. 1] and we surprised him with a cake in the team room [made on site, because you can't send perishable items into the bubble]. So we were able to do that… Our options are so limited because they're also really strict about what you can send into the bubble. So I'm going to have to get creative."

Nothing Beats Just Being Together

Asked what she missed the most with Seth being away, Callie basically said that she just misses him, period. "Ever before quarantine, he and I spent a tremendous amount of time together," she shared. "And not that I took it for granted, but I feel like…it was his love language to show love with quality time. So quality time was a big thing to him and he was showing me his love that way." Admittedly, "I was like, 'Okay, but us just being together isn't that big of a deal.' And now, I really miss just being in the same place as you. Even if we're just sitting on the couch watching TV, being able to physically touch your partner, I feel, is super important. So not being able to do that is what I miss the most."

Distance Makes the Bond Grow Stronger

Callie keeps in regular contact with her fellow wives and partners who are taking care of families at home while the guys are in the bubble. "I think Mia has done a wonderful job of connecting people," she said of Mia Wright, president and executive director of the National Basketball Wives Association. "It's nice to have a group of women you can talk to about it and they understand, and you can be that person for them as well. I also have found it super interesting getting to know a lot of the women and realizing, wow, a lot of us care about the same things.

"I think specifically during this time, we're all communicating a lot more than maybe we would. I think during the season you see people and you talk to them at the games, and you guys might go and get drinks or something, or dinner every once in a while. But now that none of us are seeing each other, or all of our husbands are in the same place, we're keeping up with each other a lot more, helping each other out."

Sister Circuit

Admittedly she's a little jealous of her sisters-in-law Ayesha Curry and Seth's sister (also a former volleyball player) Sydel Curry-Lee, both of whom are married to Golden State Warriors and therefore didn't have to sacrifice any family time to the bubble. But the ladies, all moms to little kids, get the cousins together via FaceTime and have been virtually leaning on each other a lot during quarantine—which, bubble or not, has been a trying experience.

"In general Ayesha and Sydel are a huge part of my support system, so just knowing that I have them, and talking to them about everything going on has been super helpful for me," Callie said. "So it's just nice having them—also, I would say, now that a lot of my friends are married, I realized how lucky I am that I love all of my in-laws!"

Lessons Learned

Like a lot of people, Callie is simply hoping to come out a little tougher on the other side of this. "I think that it's making our relationship so much stronger learning how to communicate apart from each other, instead of being with each other 24/7," Callie concluded. "And then I think the second thing is just patience. Patience with not knowing all of the details, patience with not knowing when he's coming home, patience with my child being here 24/7." She laughed. "I think that I will be a better person if I'm able to learn patience better. I would not say it's one of my strong suits."

At least, whether Seth's bubble bursts later this month or the Mavs stay afloat till October, Callie can rest assured that this time apart will end eventually. And they can trade FaceTime in for some of that good old-fashioned just being together.