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Finals Destination: Scenes From ESPN’s Role in the NBA’s Stirring Season Revival

ESPN Images captures moments from the ESPN’s WWOS Complex, “the Bubble” that has provided the NBA a home to complete its season

As the NBA Finals continue with Game 5 tonight on ESPN’s Wide World Of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.,

ESPN Images photographer Phil Ellsworth shares some compelling images he captured in “the Bubble” this week – and provides his unique perspective on the process (see video below).

ESPN and Disney, in partnership with the NBA, provided a convenient home for the 2019-20 NBA season’s restart on July 30 – little more than four months after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the campaign. Teamwork inside and outside the complex has resulted in ESPN telling the story of the miraculous season revival that will conclude with a crowning of a champion, either the Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since 1997, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has helped make sports dreams come true but it perhaps has never played a bigger role in serving fans as it has hosted the NBA’s season restart.

ESPN NBA host and reporter Rachel Nichols (L) interviews the Los Angeles Lakers Dwight Howard.

Each arena has 20 cameras to help bring fans NBA action.

Rachel Nichols interviews NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Described by the Los Angeles Times as the “the bubble inside the Bubble,” a 200,000-square foot production compound was constructed and connected to the Wide World Of Sports Complex.

Put another way, by the Orlando Sentinel, “ESPN built a small city to broadcast games inside NBA bubble.”

ESPN broadcasters, including NBA analyst Doris Burke, were socially distanced and well-prepared for all the NBA action.

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NBA reporter Malika Andrews (L), Sebastian M Christensen (R, top) and Dave McMenamin (R, bottom) have helped provide fans coverage of dozens of NBA games since the restart.

(L-R) Analyst Mark Jackson is calling his 12th NBA Finals on ABC; play-by-play commentator Mike Breen is calling his 15th consecutive NBA Finals on ABC; analyst Jeff Van Gundy has provided analysis for every NBA Finals event since 2007.

COVID-19 protocols are strictly enforced.

ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex’s buildings – the Arena, the Field House and Visa Athletic Center – played home for the restart which at one point featured 22 teams.

Members of the production team get their meals inside a temporary cafeteria.  More than 170 ESPN employees have worked inside the Bubble.

In collaboration with Microsoft and Michelob Ultra, fans registered for “virtual seats at games, with more than 300 NBA fans invited to appear live on the “Michelob ULTRA Courtside” 17-foot video boards surrounding the court for each game.

LeBron James (23), participating in his 10th NBA Finals, is pursuing his fourth ring.

Members of ESPN’s production team pose for a distanced group photo.

All photos in this post were taken by ESPN Images Photographer Phil Ellsworth. In this video he describes how he uses remote cameras to provide additional coverage angles.

“We’re proud of the tremendous collective effort put forth by our NBA commentators and all of our ESPN personnel – in front of the camera and behind the scenes – who have played vital roles in bringing the NBA back at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The incredible depth of our coverage team and its diverse array of voices has been on full display.” – ESPN Executive Vice President, Content, Connor Schell

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