We were given a preview of this event a few weeks before it opened, so these are our thoughts from that experience.
The NBA Experience at Disney Springs is across from House of Blues and near Cirque Du Soleil. It is the newest activity center for families to have fun, especially on rainy days. The two-story building features everything basketball you can imagine: shooting, dribbling, jump shots, referee calls, and more. If you’re a basketball fan or know someone who is, you’ll want to keep reading.
The first thing you do once you pay to get in is scan your magic band or the card they give you if you don’t have have one. This tracks everything you do for the night to show your best score on each game and helps you level up on other games. When you walk in to the main NBA Experience area, you’re immediately at half court with all the lights on you just like being on a real NBA court. It’s a very cool feeling and a great picture spot. The first event you see, and that you should do, is the “Combine” where you wait in line to measure your wingspan, reach, and jumping height. Then you shoot free throws, and it shows you how good (or bad) you are doing based on your angle of release. This will set you up for the rest of the games as it bases everything you do on your specific height and abilities. Also downstairs is a “Locker Room” where they have glass cases that look like lockers with jerseys, shoes, and more in cases from famous players, and the “Champions” area where you have interactive screens to see old championship games.
There are also a couple areas you can take pictures with a “trophy” that moves up and down on the wall to work with your height. The screen in front of it takes your picture, and you can scan your band to keep the pictures if you have Memory Maker.
The final thing downstairs are 2 small standing theaters with 2 different (7-minute) films. The one was basically an NBA commercial that was massively cheesy – we likened it to a 90s DCOM. But the other was produced by ESPN and was actually moving – about a player whose wife got pregnant then got a brain tumor. The story was super inspirational and beautiful. This was our second favorite thing in the entire building.
Upstairs is where all the games and/or training areas are. You can dunk at a 7′-10′ adjustable hoop, shoot (kind of like around the world), dribble with real basketballs (which is actually interactive video training). This was one of the games that you could pass and level up to a harder level, so we did this one twice, and the second one was definitely harder than the first time.
Then there’s an arcade area with a wall of basketball arcade games. We enjoyed competing with friends in these, and there’s also two small ones for little kids to play. The Replay puts you in the ref seat and has you reviewing calls to see if they should be kept as they were ruled or overturned. It was really neat to do, but you only need to do it once. Then there was Trivia which was really hard if you don’t know anything about basketball or the NBA. We basically all just guessed the whole time. This one you’re competing with everyone in the room which was a lot of fun. There was also a full court where you could go onto half the court by yourself and try to make different shots. There are lights showing you where to stand, and the cast members throw the basketball to you so you can just focus on trying to make the shots. It was a lot of fun and probably had the longest line because only two people can play at a time. The final game upstairs was Slingshot which was our absolute favorite game. We probably played it a dozen times throughout the night. Slingshot has you compete with other players to shoot as many balls from a slingshot into a hoop as you can. You can shoot into any hoop, and some are worth more points than others. The final activity upstairs were a few video game consoles where you can play basketball (and possibly other sports?). This wasn’t fully working that night, so we aren’t sure if there were other options in the games.
Disney did a great job making all of the games big enough to where there really shouldn’t be long lines for anything because so many people can play at once. We did appreciate that because it got us through everything faster. It was all a lot of fun, and we enjoyed trying everything at least once.
The cost for entering the NBA Experience is $34 plus tax for those 10+ or $29 plus tax for children 3-9. The tickets are nonrefundable and nontransferable, but you aren’t locked into a specific day if you purchase them. You can purchase tickets ahead of time here or at the door when you arrive. Disney does say the tickets are good for one full day, but please note that there is no re-entry if you leave and there is no food or drink in the building, so your ticket is really only good for a few hours of time or until you get hungry. Also, there isn’t much to do for little kids, so their ticket may not get much use if you purchase one for them.
Theaters for Film One and Film Two
Arcade basketball games
There is no food or drink allowed in the NBA Experience except water bottles with lids. They also do not sell any food or drink inside. Because of this, you’ll want to eat before you go in since you don’t get in-and-out privileges with your ticket, so if you enter and get hungry an hour later, you’ll have to leave to get food and pay all over again to get back in. We aren’t sure why Disney did this, especially as they could have made a lot of money just selling snacks even if they didn’t want to set up a whole kitchen to sell real food. We ended up getting so thirsty while we were there, but our only option was a water fountain because we didn’t know we needed to bring our own water.
If you are wanting to send your teenager here for a few hours of fun one day, be sure to note that guests under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign a waiver for them when they arrive. Also, guests younger than 14 must be accompanied by another guest 14 or older.
While the idea of the NBA Experience sounds amazing, we weren’t overly impressed. That being said, none of us are huge NBA fans either, so we really think that played a part in it. We also loved DisneyQuest, and the NBA Experience isn’t as great as we remember DisneyQuest being. While Disney has said you can stay as long as you want in the NBA Experience, the three hours we were there was way more time than we needed. We didn’t have to wait in long lines, so based on how busy this becomes, that may change things, but we managed to do everything in about two hours and spent the other hour playing Slingshot over and over and going back to a few of the other games.
The NBA Experience is best for those who are huge basketball fans and will really appreciate everything in the building or great for guys to spend a few hours while their mom and sisters are shopping at Disney Springs. It’s also a great way to kill time if it starts raining as so much of Disney Springs is open and outdoors, so this gives you something fun to do as a family inside (Splitsville is another great activity place at Disney Springs too and won’t necessarily cost as much). All in all, we’re really glad we went once, but we have no plans to go again since our two favorite things were the ESPN film and the Slingshot game: neither of which were completely basketball related anyway.