Until this strange, star-crossed basketball season is over, Vulture will be semi-regularly checking in on events inside the NBA bubble. This is the inaugural installment.
As originally pitched, this column was meant to celebrate the wonderful weirdness of the entire NBA being holed up together in Disney World, from the political statements to the snitch hotlines, and the beer-chugging contests to the Delta-ass meals. We’ll get to all that, I expect. But today, we’re going to start out with actual Basketball. After a 133-day absence, something approaching NBA basketball returned on Wednesday afternoon with a series of friendly scrimmages, a preseason for the eight-game rump of the regular season, which is in itself essentially a preseason for the postseason.
In one such scrimmage, the Denver Nuggets took on the woeful Washington Wizards, a game that would have seemed eminently skippable six months ago but was now appointment television. To kick off Bubbleksetball in earnest, the Nuggets decided to lean into the weirdness by rolling out an ultralarge starting lineup of Nikola Jokic (seven feet tall), Jerami Grant (sic-foot-eight), Bol Bol (seven-foot-two), Paul Millsap (six-foot-seven) and Mason Plumlee (six-foot-11) — at 412 inches, just shy of the tallest-ever starting five in NBA history.
Of the Big Nuggets, it was the biggest of them all who stood out. A second-round pick out of Oregon and the son of NBA legend Manute Bol, Bol Bol had sat out the entirety of the regular regular season with a foot injury. In his first game action outside the G League, the human pogo stick showed off the skills that made him one of the most unique prospects in college basketball. A selection of highlights:
Bol blocked a shot by leaping a mere two inches off the ground:
He put the down in the phrase “threw down a dunk”:
He ran a fast break:
And in the money clip, he blocked a shot, then hit a pull-up three in transition:
Bol fell in the draft thanks to injury concerns; each stunning play carries inside itself the potential for its own destruction. But for now, we’ll always have the day a seven-foot-two rookie played small forward in a nearly empty gym at Disney World. It really is the place where dreams come true.
Elsewhere in the bubble …
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