REVIEW: The NBA Experience – Is it worth it?

The NBA Experience is now open at Disney Springs. Several activities are inside at a cost of $35 a person, but is it worth the price?

Cast Members currently get free admission for themselves and guests at the NBA Experience for the rest of 2019, so my family and I checked it out. The NBA Experience operates in the West Side district of Disney Springs on the former site of DisneyQuest, placing it in between Splitsville and Cirque du Soleil. Admission is $35 plus tax for adults and $30 plus tax for children.

Upon arrival, guests head through the NBA Store. Not only do guests purchase tickets and sign waivers here, there is also tons of basketball merchandise available. After we got our free tickets, we had to customize them before we could go in to the actual experience. This process involves scanning the ticket to a touchpoint and inserting your age, basketball skill level, favorite team, and a name. I am not a sporty person at all, in fact, I’m pretty bad at most sports, so I set my level at beginner. I hardly know any of the teams, so I picked the Orlando Magic for my team. When choosing a name, the process gives you two sections to scroll through with pre-set names, so I ended up with Jam Fan. A number is then assigned at the end for data purposes. The ticket is pretty crucial to most of the activities, as most of them have you put it up to a touchpoint. After all this was complete, we were free to head in.

Credit: Disney

The first floor has a view exhibits, none of them riveting. To the right is Champions. The bulk of this exhibit are three touch screens, each allowing guests to view which team won each NBA/WNBA Championship. If I really wanted to know, I could look the information up online for free. Guests can also get their pictures taken by a machine (one that gives instructions and a timer, unlike the ones currently replacing Photopass photographers) with either the NBA Championship trophy or the MVP trophy, both of which are mounted to the wall. 

This actually hurt a bit since it was putting all the weight on my head, but it was worth it.

Next door is a locker room. This small room is full of jerseys and little things a basketball player might have, including mugs, shoes, and headphones. Touch screens also line the walls that guests can use to view the players of every team, their height, and their weight. I think it’s rather weird that we can get their weight, especially since a person’s weight can change constantly.

Our next stop is the Theater. There are two theaters, each with their own film made by ESPN. “Game Time” was not showing, so we ended up seeing “Together”. The theater itself is standing only with a screen wrapping half of the circular room. Keeping it spoiler free, “Together” was about a basketball player whose name I can’t remember and his wife going through some struggles. It had nothing to do with basketball itself, but it was emotional. I came out speechless, unsure of how to respond. Right outside the theater was a wall with several height marks for NBA and WNBA players so guests can see where they measure up. Also available were a few basketballs with player hand prints carved in, which guests can use to compare their hand size to.

The final stop on Level One was the Combine. This game is modeled after an actual NBA combine, a process that players go through to show their skill on and off the court in hopes of landing a team. This guest combine was nothing like an actual combine, with only three simple tasks. The first is measuring wingspan via cameras and sensors, the same going for reach and leap height. Guests can then take five shots and see if they land it. I didn’t make a single shot.

Heading upstairs, the first thing we encountered was Draft. Even if I failed to land a shot, I still got drafted to some team. This is another photo opportunity, this time with an extremely creepy wax figure.

Uncanny Valley to the MAX

Next was Trivia. Up to 25 guests can battle each other to see who knows the most about the NBA. This is definitely something for those who dive deep into basketball and know every single detail. I didn’t do too hot, but I did end up in 4th place out of 7. Next door is Dribble, where guests can learn a few dribbling techniques and see how accurate they are. Even though I think I did horribly, I ended up with a total of 93% accuracy. Guests can return to this game for the next level of dribbling, climbing up the difficulty.

Dunk was my favorite thing to do and one of the two things I really enjoyed. You’re given a minute to adjust a hoop to whatever height you’d like and then dunk it. Or mess around, either one. It was fun to pretend I was slam dunking a ball, something I dreamed of doing when I was a wee lad, even if the rim was just at the height of my head. I did Dunk twice, and despite really enjoying it, it did get dull the second time around. It apparently takes your picture for every “dunk” you take with terrible angles.

The other activity I thoroughly enjoyed was the Arcade. The walls are lined with basketball arcade games and there are two towers in the center, each side hooked up with an XBOX and some NBA related game. I chose to stray from the XBOXs and played the arcade machines several times until my arms got sore.

Guests at NBA Experience race against the clock at Slingshot to make as many baskets as possible using an oversized slingshot before time runs out. NBA Experience immerses guests of all ages and skills into the world of professional basketball as both a fan and player at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Steven Diaz, photographer)

Slingshot is a great concept for a game, but it isn’t really executed well. All guests battle each other to see who can make the most shots with dodgeballs via a slingshot. It wasn’t easy to fire and it definitely wasn’t easy to make it in. I got one shot in the minute and a half allotted. I do appreciate the creativity behind it, but at the end of the day, it didn’t hold up.

The final experience is Shoot. Guests run from spot to spot on a court with a goal to make five shots in 15 seconds. Sound impossible? It is. A Cast Member is supposed to chase down the balls you shoot and get it back to you before your next shot, but with only two balls available per game, both you and the Cast Member have to be on your feet. If either of you aren’t fast enough, you won’t make it through all five spots. I walked away from this one feeling angry, not at myself or the Cast member, but at the system.

We did all of this in an hour and a half, including two runs of Dunk and 7 arcade game plays. It felt like a small crowd was inside and we only had to wait for one thing, Shoot, for five minutes. Even our theater for “Together” was empty. This experience definitely doesn’t cater to everyone physically. Several activities required standing and running, so if you’re paralyzed from the waist down, you probably won’t have a good time. Since many of the activities were physical, I did end up sweating quite a bit, something I didn’t want from an indoor attraction. This definitely isn’t something to spend $35 a person on, unless you’re an NBA die-hard and good at the sport. It’s a very specific target audience, something few of us could relate to. DisneyQuest was actually $45 a person and definitely a bigger bang for the buck. Five levels of gaming with something for everyone. One plus side is that photos are included and some of the photos are a compilation of your scores (even if some of it isn’t accurate).

I definitely don’t see the NBA Experience thriving in the future. If you’d like somewhat of a better look and feel for the NBA Experience, I will be uploading a video of my time there in the coming days on youtube.com/sej101 .

SEJ101 is one of our contributors to D-COT and finds all the juicy gossip going on at Disney.

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