While most view COVID-19 as the greatest obstacle to the NBA’s return this summer, longtime ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith doesn’t see it that way. Stephen A thinks sex—or a lack thereof—will be the biggest challenge players face in Orlando.
“Do we really think that the ‘recreational activities’ that these guys are accustomed to are going to be compromised for three months?” said Smith on Tuesday’s edition of First Take. “The guys that are married without their wives, the guys that ain’t married without their women, you really think they’re honoring a bubble for three months?”
Other panelists including Jay Williams and Max Kellerman were quick to point out that players’ significant others will be permitted in Orlando after the first month of play (and a required three-day quarantine). Whether it’s three months or three weeks, Smith doesn’t think players can handle any length of abstinence
“Forget three months. They’re gonna’ struggle with three weeks. Why you think they wanted Vegas?” asked Smith, alluding to a certain extracurricular activity deemed legal in Las Vegas (they don’t call it Sin City for nothing). Though the league’s proposed restart at the Walt Disney Resort was eventually okayed with minimal resistance, the restrictive nature of the league’s bubble setting did raise concerns among certain players including Avery Bradley, who ultimately decided to forego the Lakers’ stretch run in Orlando.
The NBA has made its Orlando accommodations as player-friendly as possible with table tennis, on-site barbers, movie-viewing areas and other entertainment options. But even with all those amenities at their disposal, Smith predicts players will leave the premises to fulfill their sexual appetites.
“They’re gonna’ violate the bubble. That’s what I’m telling you,” Smith insisted. “Somebody’s gotta’ say it.” Players leaving campus and contracting the virus would obviously be a worst-case scenario for the league, particularly with Florida among the hardest-hit states (over 150,000 confirmed COVID cases). While Smith’s theory was largely dismissed by his First Take colleagues, the idea of players escaping the bubble is a valid concern and one that the NBA, in its haste to resume its halted 2019-20 season, may have overlooked.
Will players confined to the bubble remain masters of their domain? Only time will tell, but clearly, Stephen A doesn’t see that happening.