BY DEWAYNE BEVIL
ORLANDO — Walt Disney World and the NBA have teamed up for an interactive basketball-themed attraction. The NBA Experience opened to the public at Disney Springs last week.
The attraction, built in the West Side neighborhood of the shopping and entertainment complex, features about a dozen hoops-driven activities that either simulate the big-league experience, improve skill sets or tweak normal basketball play.
An area devoted to dunking allows the rim to be lowered 3 feet and the ensuing action to be photographed. Nearby, giant slingshots are aimed at multiple backboards, with 14 players competing at the same time.
The business stands amid stores and restaurants, including House of Blues across the walkway. It’s on the approximate footprint of the former DisneyQuest attraction.
“It is an experience, and that’s what we’re about,” said Matt Simon, vice president for Disney Springs. He said skill level did not dictate how much a visitor might enjoy the new offering.
“They will have that experience of what it’s like to feel like an NBA star,” Simon said.
ABDUL-JABBAR, WADE ATTEND
Last week’s opening was attended by longtime basketball stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Grant Hill. Other players on the stage included Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon; Victor Oladipo, formerly of the Magic and now with the Indiana Pacers; and Dwyane Wade, a former Miami Heat star who retired after last season.
Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger and NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the Disney Springs crowd before the official opening.
A wax version of Silver is stationed inside the NBA Experience. It helps form a photo-op for visitors, who can stand with faux Silver as if their names have just been called on draft day.
Most of the activities are on the second floor of the attraction. The ground floor features exhibits about players, a chance to compare wingspans with a picture of 7-footer Mohamed Bamba of the Magic and a retail space. A sports bar/restaurant called City Works Eatery & Pour Hour is scheduled to open in the building later.
Oladipo, who said he still owns a house in Orlando, said the attraction creates another way to connect with NBA enthusiasts.
“Fans make our game,” he said. “All they want to do is to interact with us in any way possible.”
A ticket for a one-day visit to NBA Experience is $34 ($29 for ages 3 to 9). Generally, it will open around midday and be in operation into the late evening hours.