Disney Springs welcomed its newest attraction: The NBA Experience, which lets Walt Disney World guests step into the shoes of a real NBA player and take on interactive and physical challenges to get a sense of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. However, as one could probably imagine, this experience is quite different from the theming and thrills you typically find visiting Disney Parks. Here is a look at the experience from the perspective of an avid Disney Parks fan who doesn’t know that much about basketball.
Located in Disney Springs West Side, next to The House of Blues and Jaleo, this all-new experience brings the NBA to Walt Disney World. How you might ask? Through thirteen basketball-themed activities in a high-tech and interactive environment that will have you grabbing a basketball and playing in front of virtual fans!
To give you a look at some of the many experiences offered in this new facility and how they compare to Disney Parks experiences, it’s best to look at what this new facility has to offer. Specifically, a few of the most interactive experiences that’ll have you up and moving with a basketball in hand. As a note, I am an avid Disney Parks visitor who gets most of his thrills from Space Mountain and Mission: SPACE. Basketball is not my forte. However, from my experience as a frequent visitor and lover of the parks, I’ll try to help size up for you my experience at this new center and how it could be similar to your own if you too choose to try out the NBA Experience. To begin, we’ll start with the ultimate test of ball-handling skills: “Dribble.”
“Dribble” is an experience that’s lead with an interactive coach who leads a variety of dribbling routines and tracks them through sensors located on the walls to the left and right of you. And yes, for this experience you’re given an actual basketball, which you’re meant to “show off your skills” with.
The monitor in front of you is where you’re given the step-by-step instructions of how to handle the ball, which is paced, timed and tracked throughout the experience. In the end, you’re given a number score of how you handled the ball based on the instructions given by your interactive coach.
Some of this “handling” includes through the leg dribbling, side-to-side, and behind the back maneuvers. If you have never handled a basketball before, you might find this to be quite challenging and even a few chuckles from those around you. Although, if you’re an intermediate player, you’ll definitely get a good idea of your ball-handling skills. For those wondering, I scored a 51% out of 100%–not my proudest moment during the experience.
Now, onto an experience that really is a race against the clock! “Shoot” lets guests step onto a basketball court and hear the roar of a virtual crowd while maneuvering through a series of last-second shots before the 15-second clock expires.
Some of the shots you’re guided through during the experience range from a 3-pointer, free-throws, jump shots, and anything else you can try to do to score points before the time runs out. All the while–seeing a virtual crowd behind you screaming for you!
When I took on this challenge first-hand, I can say it was definitely a “challenge.” Although, as the crowd cheers behind you, you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. Even though I wasn’t sure I’d make the majority of my shot attempts, I still felt excited and compelled to try to sink as many baskets as I could in my short time span. I attempted about eight shots – of the eight, I made about three.
Other interactive offerings found throughout the center include:
• Dunk! – Execute the perfect slam just like a superstar, captured by cameras surrounding height-adjustable baskets
• Slingshot – Use an oversized slingshot to launch balls at hoops of varying heights, making as many baskets as possible before the clock runs out in this thrilling timed challenge
• Combine – Compare wingspan and vertical leap to NBA or WNBA players with this series of tests that replicates NBA Combine drills
• Draft – Experience one of the biggest milestones for a basketball player at the NBA Draft with a photo moment that re-creates the electric atmosphere of the Draft stage
• Replay – Take a seat at an interactive, multi-screen module to watch replay clips from NBA games and use tools at the station to make the right calls
• Players – Enter the off-court sanctuary of the locker room and explore current team rosters, records and highlights
• Champions – Become immersed in the rich legacy and history of NBA and WNBA championship teams and take a photo with replicas of the NBA championship and MVP trophies
• “Game Time” – Watch a heartwarming film about the in-arena game experience and the impact it has on a young woman and her father
• “Together” – Discover the amazing on- and off-court story of an NBA superstar in this inspirational, 180-degree cinematic presentation
• Arcade – Play interactive games, from the fan-favorite Pop-A-Shot to the latest NBA video games
• Trivia – Demonstrate knowledge of the NBA and WNBA – past and present – during a multi-player, real-time contest
One other area within the experience allows you to see where you physically stack up to some of the real NBA players you see on TV. From this image (pictured below) it’s obvious I may not have all the makings of the next NBA star. However, as an avid visitor to the parks and someone who went into this experience not knowing what to expect, I can say I did enjoy my time playing make-believe.
If you visit Disney Parks because you’re a pure Disney fan who loves immersing yourself in the many stories of some of the company’s most famous animated classic films–this experience may not be on the top of your to-do list at Walt Disney World. However, if you’re someone who enjoys themed-experiences, sports, or an appreciation for the NBA, I believe you will find this experience quite enjoyable.
Sports or basketball are not the topics most think of when thinking about Walt Disney World. However, with this new experience, you really do get to see what it’s like to be an NBA star. Or at least–train as if you’d like to become one yourself.
From the experiences listed above, a visitor to NBA Experience may want to have an appreciation of NBA history as many offerings are designed to look back at the basketball league’s past. It’s not to say that the entire experience is comprised this way, but enough that it helps you get full value from the experience.
Not be wildly interested in the NBA’s rich history? The interactive experiences alone are still very enjoyable and offer a decent amount of high-tech flair to make them more than just physical challenges. Receiving rankings, scoring, and tips of how to improve your own game is really exciting. How often does someone get to receive real tips on how to improve their game from a licensed and official NBA Experience?
At the price point of $34 per person, this isn’t much different than other separately ticked entertainment offerings at Disney Springs. The Void, a virtual reality experience that allows guests to step into the worlds of “Star Wars” and “Ralph Breaks The Internet” comes in at around the same price.
Looking for that traditional Disney dark ride with classic Disney-theming or anything Disney for that matter? You are not going to find it at the NBA Experience, making this a hard pass. However, what you will find is a different type of entertainment that successfully immerses you into the world of the NBA with hands-on activities, interactive technology, and history. I’m not a sports fan but I do love Walt Disney World and despite my lack of sports enthusiasm I had a lot of fun. I found myself not only laughing at myself but also at those around me, while having fun and learning about basketball in the process.
If you’re curious about this experience, we suggest you contact our preferred travel agent partner Academy Travel! They can not only book you a reservation for this experience but they can also offer you expert advice and a no-obligation quote on a dream vacation. Academy Travel provides their services at no extra cost to you and you can click here to get a no-obligation quote and discuss your vacation with a Vacation Planners at Academy Travel.