In the Bubble (but not really)

My experience being a virtual fan in the NBA Bubble

Orlando Florida, Mickey Mouse, palm trees, and the host city of the whole NBA Playoffs? If you would have told me this last year I would have chuckled ironically and replied, “the Orlando Magic were that good?” However crazy it seemed then It is now a reality, with the NBA playing playoff games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex on the Disney World campus in Orlando. 22 teams attended the season restart leading to large excitement spanning across NBA fandom(apologies to the eight teams not invited). Things were different when the Pelicans and Jazz tipped off on July 31st in the first seeding game in the bubble, I thought my eyes had deceived me, were those people on the screen fans?

After further investigation my assumption proved correct and I just about lost It. “I gotta be there” I thought and what team would be better to watch than the hometown Orlando Magic. After entering several lottery’s to get tickets to a game I finally won one and got myself a ticket to be In the virtual crowd to game three of the eighth seeded Magic’s series against the Milwaukee Bucks tie at one game apiece.

It all began on August 14th when I got an email from the NBA that provided me with a link to enter a lottery to get a ticket to be in the virtual court of a playoff game. I put in several requests for lots of games but really wanted to watch the Orlando Magic play and try to pull off what would have been the greatest upset in NBA history. I didn’t win a ticket for game one, or game two, or any game In the Nuggets series but then about three days after entering the lottery for game three I received an email telling me tickets were available. I rushed onto the website to get my ticket and got one. I was super excited to have gotten this once in a lifetime chance. I then received the confirmation Email that said further instruction would come on game day.

Fast forward a few days and I received instructions via email for what to do. Following the instructions best as I could I did as follows. First I set up a table and chair near my TV facing a blank wall as requested so nothing distracting was in my background. Next I downloaded the Microsoft Teams app on my phone as that is the preferred app the NBA uses for virtual fans. I then charged my computer to prepare It for the upcoming game. I was told to sign on two hours prior to tip off at nine in the morning in Colorado, just to make sure everything was working.

When my alarm sounded on that wonderful Saturday morning I was very excited, I put on my Aaron Gordon jersey and rushed to my computer. After signing on at nine o’clock It took about an hour for the monitor to appear and give us instructions. The instructions were as follows, no signs or slogans, you could not wear a color not related to a team playing, If you had no apparel for that team you need to wear a dark monotone shirt, only one person could be in the screen during the whole game, you cannot let someone else near you had the seat.

However your puppy is allowed on screen throughout the game as long they use appropriate language. The last rule was to be a fan for the whole game cheering as hard as you can no matter what the score is. We were told one key thing, there would be a chase we would never get on screen at the real arena, but they will try to get everyone on screen.

So the game began when Nikola Vuchevic and Brook Lopez fought for the jump ball at the tip and the Bucks took possession. The Bucks quickly ran off to a huge lead being up to 34 points, but then late in the third the Magic came storming back to cut It to twelve. I was moved from the section I started in to a Magic fans section at that point where the classic chant you would hear at an NBA arena. These chants included chanting defense.... Defense… Defense! When the Magic were on defense and chanting Lets go Magic.... Let's go Magic! On offense. It felt like I was at the real game which made me very happy. However the Magic who just refused to give in all series sadly lost the game and would end up losing the series.

I only made brief appearances in the arena but with the other Magic fans in my section we were able to feel a sense of normalcy. Some of the cool aspects were we got to watch the game about ten second ahead of the rest of the world, we were able to have lots of fun watching a basketball game. Often we talk about the x-factor a crowd can be in an NBA Playoff series but of course this year Is different, although Markelle Fultz and the squad could not hear us, I hope these players know we are there. Cheering for them on and off the court. I believe that Adam Silver, the NBAPA, and Walt Disney World did a fantastic job bring us a “Brand New Game!”

Story by Dominic Fratino '21