When a global pandemic forced the NBA to get creative in hopes of keeping the 2020 season alive, tapping experts like David Born was essential to creating a safe and secure experience through the regular season and playoffs.
Amy Born, a Senior Wealth Advisor for Boston Private, serving clients in Beverly Hills, CA, spent 107 days apart from her husband David, a security consultant, as he worked inside the Bubble in Orlando.
David has spent over 20 years working at sports entertainment venues such as Staples Center, Dignity Health Sports Park, Enterprise Center in St. Louis, and with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. We had a chance to speak with him as he returned home from Orlando and spent some time reflecting on his experience in the Bubble.
How did your background prepare you for this experience?
I’ve spent my sports entertainment security career overseeing security operations at several venues in the Los Angeles area. For this project, I was working alongside NBA staff and Disney cast security members. My main role was to ensure security and safety for everyone working at the venues on the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. This included ensuring that SARS COVID-2 safety guidelines were followed. In the beginning, there were two to three thousand people but eventually dwindled to a few hundred as the playoff s wrapped up.
How did you prepare for working with the NBA and other security teams?
Starting in March, the security industry as a whole was talking a lot about the latest technology to make our venues safer. Advanced planning and site visits helped me prepare for our time in Orlando.
When I arrived in Orlando, I was required to quarantine for seven days. To take advantage of the time, I voluntarily took Johns Hopkins University Contact Tracing course to better understand how someone contracts the virus and the details around being asymptomatic and not.
The NBA had their own medical team directing us to implement and direct compliance with CDC Guidelines. Masks were required at all times except for when you were actively eating and drinking or socially distancing outside.
Those in the Bubble were tested every single day and typically received results approximately 12 hours later. The NBA developed a phone app that everyone was required to use to complete a daily questionnaire about our health symptoms. Additionally, we had a personal thermometer and oxygenator that we used every day connected to the app via Bluetooth.
What made your day to day at the Disney compound unique?
The Bubble was a small city with a lot of your typical necessities built right in. On-site, there was a medical office, dental office, barber, and nail salon.
I also quickly realized the typical things I would use that I didn’t pack in my suitcase. One of my first questions was — where do I pick up my Amazon packages? All deliveries came to one receiving area, which was quite the spectacle to see pallets of water deliveries, large video game consoles, furniture, and sports equipment delivered for the players.
What was the experience like of having basketball games without spectators?
When I attend professional sports events, I’m running point on security operations. This was the fi rst time I observed a game and heard the players interacting with each other. Being responsible for the security during events, I rarely get to watch a full sports game. So I’ve never watched so much basketball in my life as I did over those few months. It was truly a wonderful experience.
What surprised you most during your time in the Bubble?
The NBA spent quite a bit of money putting this all together, and it ended up working well. At first, things were constantly changing as they began learning what worked and didn’t work. Disney Cast Members who were furloughed earlier in the year were brought back to assist with day-to-day operations.
I felt safer in the Bubble than anywhere else. There were layers of credentials required to limit access to areas to reduce contact. And it was interesting to see the amount of cleaning required between meals and events. And, of course, there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Now we know the result: no players during the entire time in the Bubble contracted the virus.
The 2020 NBA Bubble was the isolation zone at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. The National Basketball Association created it to protect its players from the COVID-19 pandemic during the final eight games of the 2019-2020 regular season and throughout the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
What are your key takeaways from the 107 days you spent in Florida?
Gratitude to be able to come back to a home I missed. It was really cool knowing that I was doing something unique and once in a lifetime. But, as time went on, it was challenging being in the same hotel room for three months and missing my family, but it was nice knowing I was part of something special that was never done before.
I have also reflected on how much I learned when it comes to diversity. The NBA is a very diverse organization, and watching how during that period of time when the Black Lives Matter movement was changing the game schedule and participation, the importance was placed on listening and considering other people’s backgrounds, culture, and feelings. I now have a different outlook on race and diversity that I will carry forward.