Last week I had the good fortune to step inside the new NBA Experience at Disney Springs as part of Disney cast member previews. I’m here to share some of my first impressions, as well as our first official photos from inside! This one-of-a-kind destination was created by Disney in collaboration with the NBA to make you feel what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of NBA and WNBA champions.
Ahead of its Aug. 12 grand opening, I had a blast trying out the venue’s 13 basketball-related activities. Dribble, for example, works on your ball-handling skills, while Dunk! features an adjustable rim so you can make a highlight-reel slam. Over in the Arcade, you can check out Trivia to see who knows the most about the NBA and WNBA.
You can participate in these activities in any order you choose, and return to them throughout your visit to NBA Experience to improve your scores and skills.
To get you pumped up for the debut of this new destination, here are five takeaways from my preview of NBA Experience:
- All About the Guest – This place is all about you – almost every activity encourages you to be an active participant. I recommend you complete the optional registration once you’re inside; this allows you to customize and personalize your experience by adding your own nickname and choosing your favorite NBA or WNBA team. Your team’s logo will be associated with you throughout your stay on various leaderboards and signage, and when you try the Shoot! activity, the court magically transforms to make it feel like you’re in your favorite team’s home arena! Plus, you can choose different basketballs to best fit your hand size (NBA, WNBA or Youth) and set your own skill level – if you’ve never even picked up a basketball before, don’t worry, NBA Experience has you covered.
- Immersive Environment – Walking into NBA Experience feels like stepping onto center court of an arena, complete with huge overhead video monitors, pulsing music and swirling lights. Whether you’re a huge NBA fan or wouldn’t know what the inside of a basketball arena looks like, you will get swept up in the energy. That stunning entry sets the tone for the whole place; I lost track of time as I moved from one activity to the next, completely absorbed in what I was doing.
- Authenticity – Walt Disney Imagineering worked closely with the NBA to ensure NBA Experience is authentic. The hoops are regulation size (unless you need them adjusted to dunk!), and team and league logos are all over. Everything just feels right. For those new to the game, this is a great way to learn all about the league, its players and the game as a whole, straight from the source. If you’ve ever been curious about the NBA or WNBA, let your journey into fandom begin here!
- Interactive Technology – For how physically fun NBA Experience is, it’s also a high-tech environment. When I first entered the building, I immediately went over to the massive touchscreens in the Champions area and started looking up my favorite championship teams. You can dive deep into league history, with notes about each of those legendary teams along with photos and video highlights. I also thoroughly enjoyed Replay, the activity that challenges you to make the right call in three different scenarios using your own personal interactive replay station; you can view the play from different angles, zoom in on key moments, and move the video forward and backward before deciding to confirm or overturn the call. Going back to my earlier point, Replay feels so real – I could easily imagine NBA or WNBA replay officials sitting at a very similar setup every night of the season.
- Inspirational – After spending a good amount of time inside NBA Experience, I realized there’s a fundamental principle that runs throughout the entire place – it’s inspirational. Everyone around me was constantly encouraging me to do my best. Or, sometimes, the activity itself is the inspiration all its own, such as Dribble. Here a virtual coach kept saying things like “Good job! Keep it up! Keep going!” as I was working my way through a series of ball-handling drills. NBA Experience focuses on your successes, and always encourages you to do better.
Keep checking Disney Parks Blog for more on NBA Experience as we prepare to open this groundbreaking new destination at Disney Springs. You can pre-purchase tickets now wherever Walt Disney World tickets are sold. It’s almost time to lace up your shoes!