“I Miss the NBA Experience” – Looking Back at the Short-Lived Disney Springs Attraction 4 Years After it Opened

Four years ago yesterday, an attraction opened at Walt Disney World. It was one of the largest and most ambitious new attractions in recent memory for the resort, and it’s already closed. The NBA Experience opened on August 12, 2019 and just a little over two years later, it was announced the Disney Springs attraction would not reopen. While most Disney fans weren’t exactly heartbroken by the news, I’m here to say – I miss the NBA Experience.

Yes, the NBA Experience had its flaws. For starters, it only appealed to basketball fans. More specifically, it only appealed to basketball fans who were actually interested in playing basketball. Most guests on a Walt Disney World vacation aren’t looking for high-tech, creative gym that doesn’t offer much outside of physical activities, especially after several days of walking around the parks in the Florida summer.

And the few activities the NBA Experience offered that were not as physically demanding were not nearly as entertaining either. There were photo ops, a trivia game and a few interactive learning experiences that made it feel more like the NBA Hall of Fame than a Walt Disney World attraction. All together, the whole experience didn’t seem to justify the $34 ticket price for those who weren’t looking to lace up their sneakers.

That being said, there certainly were some guests who were willing to get the full NBA Experience… experience. For them, there were plenty of fun activities that allowed them to see what it was like to dunk (on a lower rim) or challenge their shooting skills. And then there was the slingshot game, which had very little to do with actual basketball, but was a lot of fun nonetheless.

Catering to a smaller group of potential guests did have its advantages as well. In the few times I was able to visit, it was hardly what I would call crowded. And while that certainly played a factor in the eventual decision to close the attraction, it did make the whole experience much more pleasant. Rather than having to wait 20 minutes for an activity that would last 15 seconds, guests were frequently able to walk up and jump right into the fun.

There was also a presence that the NBA Experience had. Being a symbol of a partnership between Disney and the NBA was worth something. And the attraction had frequent visitors of a particularly tall variety. The opening brought everyone from Disney CEO Bob Iger to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Disney Springs, something very few attractions can claim. In it’s short lifespan, visitors like the NBA’s Lopez brothers also made visits.

And that brings us to the real reason I actually miss having the NBA Experience at Disney Springs. It may not have been the most popular or successful attraction but it was an attraction and an attraction is always going to be better than an empty building.

In the absolute worst case scenario, an attraction can be completely ignored. Just because something is open at Walt Disney World, doesn’t mean you need to participate in it. Even if you just walk by the attraction every time you visit, it still serves the purpose of drawing in other guests and taking crowds away from other offerings. In other words, love it or hate it, it’s a win.

I also carefully chose to use the word “offerings” and not “attractions,” because Disney Springs is not exactly brimming with attractions. With dozens of fantastic restaurants and plenty of places to shop, there are certainly reasons to visit Disney Springs. However, once you finish your dinner and browse a few stores, there isn’t a whole lot to keep you there. A few scattered attractions, like Aerophile and the Amphicars, provide some options but additional offerings never hurt.

So while the NBA Experience was far from the most popular offering in its short time being open at Disney Springs, it was far better than having a massive, empty building that simply holds up a large video board advertising for the nearby Cirque du Soleil show.

Of course, the best case scenario would be for Disney to let us know the space will be used for a new attraction. In the meantime though, on the anniversary of the opening of this mostly forgotten attraction, I simply wanted to take the opportunity to say “I miss the NBA Experience.”

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Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."