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Life In the WNBA Bubble

by John Wroblewski

Aug 16, 2020

The WNBA season is being played at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. While joining Zoom media sessions, I talked with players and coaches about food, travel and life in “the Wubble.”

Jacki Gemelos

It started when I asked Jacki Gemelos of the Connecticut Sun for her favorite Greek foods. Gemelos lit up as she listed Greek delicacies and she also mentioned Portillo’s for their famous chocolate cake. Soon food became the main focus of that media session, with other writers chiming in with their Greek choices. In succeeding sessions with other players, I pursued the topic, conducting an informal poll of more than 50 players and coaches,

Chicago was named as the favorite food city, with Lou Malnati’s Pizza the top choice, followed closely by Portillo’s. Chicago area native Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm had a Malnati’s pizza sent to her there. Chipotle was the top large franchise pick.

Tyasha Harris

Bella Alarie

Las Vegas Aces Carolyn Swords had her favorite coffee shipped from Las Vegas, but likes the food served at IMG, as does Dallas Wings assistant coach Bryce Agler, who mentioned the health benefits. Tyasha Harris of the Wings is relying on food delivery services, as is Bella Alarie of the Wings, who also touted the good food at IMG.

As for travel, basketball trips are regarded as business trips and don’t allow for tourist activities. Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky spoke for all in saying she misses seeing the different sights, but the travel would be hard in this condensed season.

All look forward to recreational travel in the offseason. Again, Chicago was the most popular destination, followed by Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and “anywhere warm near water.” Greece and Italy topped the most desirable foreign destination lists. Gemelos mentioned spending half the year in Greece, although part of that is also business, as she plays in the Greek league.

Bill Laimbeer

Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer had the most interesting answer. As a self-described “hermit,” he misses the alone time that comes with travel. Laimbeer stated the solitude he finds when traveling is refreshing and allows him to recharge.

A recurring sentiment was missing simple things, like eating and socializing with family and friends. The Sky’s Diamond DeShields wishes she could be helping prepare her younger sister for college. Several players, like Kayla McBride of the Aces, miss their pets.

The major benefit of life in the bubble is the convenience, as summarized by Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot. Everything and everybody a player needs is only minutes away.

Natisha Hiedeman

The Sun’s Natisha Hiedeman might be the most productive outside of basketball activities. With a song recently released and another coming soon, Hiedeman is using down time to develop her music career. She also told a great story about a beach day for the team.

The WNBA regular season ends September 12, with playoffs ending a few weeks later. By then, all personnel will have spent more than 90 days together at IMG. Upon the season conclusion, most say they will spend a long stretch at home, followed by a relaxing trip somewhere. The comfort of home followed by the fun of travel is the perfect way to recover from those three months of isolation.

— John Wroblewski, online writer


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