The First Round of NBA Bubble Meals at Disney Are . . . Underwhelming

After months of planning, the NBA’s Orlando bubble experiment has finally begun. Not surprisingly, the early days have been somewhat chaotic. Quarantine breaches, botched coronavirus tests, and incomplete rosters are just three of the hurdles teams have had to overcome so far. Nonetheless, practices are now underway, and it’s starting to look like this just might work.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other issues that can — and will — arise as the Orlando bubble goes on. One aspect of the bubble has already drawn criticism from numerous players: the meals they have been served so far.

Player feedback about the NBA Bubble menus so far

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NBA players are used to a degree of luxury and indulgence when it comes to the food they eat. Even those who adhere to stricter dietary guidelines basically get to eat what they want, when they want. And with money to burn, most NBA players are no strangers to the world of haute cuisine, happy to drop big money on an attractive and satisfying meal after a hard day’s work.

With that in mind, the meals that players have encountered so far in Orlando leave a lot to be desired. To make things worse, players haven’t had any say in what they receive to eat.

Instead, pre-selected meals are being delivered to their hotel rooms. So far those meals have been underwhelming — and in some cases, even somewhat alarming according to ESPN.

It didn’t take long for players to start sharing pictures of their meals on Twitter and Instagram. One especially alarming photo showed a meal that Denver Nuggets guard Troy Daniels received. That meal — meant to be dinner — consisted of a salad, a soup, two bags of chips, and some fruit, with not a single piece of protein in sight.

Other players soon followed suit by posting similar photos of their meals, which bear more resemblance to airplane food than to the nutrient-rich staples that professional athletes depend on. One running joke has also compared the meals to the sorts of underwhelming fare served at the ill-fated Fyre Festival in 2017.

The NBA’s response to the criticism

Worried by the viral spread of bubble meal photos, the NBA was quick to address the food controversy. Their response came in the form of an official memo.

It began by clarifying that the meals received by players so far are not indicative of the menus moving forward. On the contrary, those meals are only being issued while players are in a mandatory quarantine upon entering the bubble.

Once players have cleared the quarantine, they will have access to numerous on-campus restaurants and approved delivery services. Furthermore, players have the option of hiring a personal chef from outside of the bubble, who can prepare meals that are sent to the Disney campus daily. The cost of such meals, however, will fall on the players themselves.

A lack of clear communication

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Although the NBA’s memo offered useful guidance on how the meal system will work, it also highlights a general lack of clarity regarding bubble regulations. Not only did players not understand the meal guidelines, but they were the last to receive that vital information. In at least one case, reporters had a better grasp on the situation than did the players themselves.

The Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell was in the dark about what kind of meals to expect moving forward. It finally took a Tweet from New York Times reporter Mark Stein to inform him about the meal plan. Whether or not that information had been covered by the league’s 113-page handbook remains unclear.

Regardless, this early snafu makes it clear that the Orlando experiment is just that — an experiment. No matter how much of a plan may be in place, situations are bound to arise that test the limits of the league’s preparation. As a result, players on contending teams will undoubtedly experience elevated levels of stress and confusion moving forward.