Joel Embiid 'hated' idea of NBA's bubble league: 'I don't think it's going to be safe'

Jason Owens
·5 mins read

Joel Embiid thinks the NBA’s Disney World bubble is a bad idea.

He’s showing up anyway.

The Philadelphia 76ers center expressed candid concerns about the league’s scheduled restart in late July with reporters on Tuesday. But he’s not letting them keep him away from Disney World.

‘I hated the idea’

“I hated the idea,” Embiid said when asked about fears around the bubble league. “I feel like, with everything that has been going on, it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world. ...

“All I want to be is, you know, stay healthy and stay safe, keep the people around me safe. I want to make sure I’m able to live for a long time and not have any sort of, I don’t know, consequences in the future.”

That sounds like a man ready to opt out, which players are permitted to do with no consequence beyond missing game checks for games not played. A handful of players have exercised that option, including Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza.

But Embiid says that he doesn’t want to let his fans and his teammates down.

‘I don’t think it’s going to be safe’

“I’m not a big fan of the idea, but then again, I’m going to do my job,” Embiid continued. “I’m not going to let the city down. I’m going to go represent my city — that’s what I’ve always done — my family, and my teammates.

“It doesn’t matter the fact that I don’t like that idea, and I still don’t believe in it, and I don’t think it’s going to be safe.”

Joel Embiid isn't the first NBA star to admit he doesn't trust his colleagues to keep the bubble safe. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Joel Embiid isn't the first NBA star to admit he doesn't trust his colleagues to keep the bubble safe. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Stars not among players opting out

Of the players who have opted out, none of them are healthy All-Stars. Only Bradley is a starter on a legitimate championship contender. While players are permitted to opt out, there’s certainly more pressure on high-profile players on contending teams to show up at Disney World.

Opting out of the bubble league is one thing. Opting out of a shot to lead a contender is another, whether that pressure comes from within or externally.

‘Some guys like to go out’

What specifically is Embiid worried about? His fellow NBA players. Embiid says he’s taking precautions to remain safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He doesn’t trust the rest of the league to do so.

“I know I’m going to do the right things,” Embiid said. "I don’t ever do anything. I only play video games. I’m always home. I don’t do anything. But then again, I don’t trust those other guys to do the same. But like I said, I got to do my job. ...

“There’s some guys [who] like to go out, there’s some guys [who] like to do stuff, there’s some guys that like adventure. So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself, I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk. But the question is, ‘Is everybody else going to do the same?’ And I surely — just being around this business — I surely don’t think so.”

Damian Lillard doesn’t trust NBA players either

Embiid’s not the first high-profile player to express that concern. Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard expressed similar concerns last week.

“My confidence ain’t great,” Lillard told reporters on a video call. “My confidence ain’t great because you’re telling me you’re gonna have 22 teams full of players following all the rules? When we have 100 percent freedom, everybody don’t follow all the rules.

“I don’t have much confidence. But hopefully, it’ll be handled to a point where we’re not putting everybody at risk or in a dangerous position.”

Like Embiid, Lillard’s planning to show up despite his concerns. He’s also taking a similar approach to maintaining his health.

“I’m gonna be chilling,” Lillard said. “I feel like there’s still a possibility for something to spread within that bubble, just with so many people doing so many different things that we’ve got to follow to be safe, even though we’re not exposed to the public.

“I’m gonna have my PS3, my PS4. I’m gonna have my studio equipment, my mic, my laptop. I’m gonna have all my books. That’s it, man. I’m gonna be in the room, chilling.”

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