REVIEW: The All-New NBA Experience Misses Every Shot We Gave It at Disney Springs

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It was announced in June of 2015 that the nostalgic Disney Quest would close for good as a new experience would take its place in 2019. That experience would come to be the NBA Experience. We recently brought you a first look of the all-new NBA Store, which opened to the public earlier this month. As we draw closer to the grand opening of this new offering on August 12th, we actually got a chance to be among the first to experience it. While we were extremely hopeful that this new offering would be a fresh, new experience that served as a much-needed overhaul of what Disney Quest once was, we were instead given a boring, careless tourist trap with a theme that is so specific to one audience, that I can’t ever see myself returning. Let’s take a look at what went wrong here.

While we were invited to take as much video and photos as we liked, the one request of the NBA Experience staff was that we hold off on sharing them until they officially open on August 12th. We’ll try to do our best to paint the scene for you.

When you first walk in, the main middle area features a variety of flashing lights and bright screens. It resembles the experience of actually walking out onto a basketball court. Upon arrival, Cast Members inform you of the interactive elements included in the experience and encourage you to “register” at one of the kiosks located around the main area. These kiosks are where you tap your MagicBand and personalize your own NBA experience. You are prompted to enter your age, favorite NBA team, basketball skill level, and create a nickname for yourself which will all be used throughout the experience. These personalization options are a great use of the MagicBand system, however throughout the experience, I didn’t feel that it was executed as well as it could’ve been. More on that later.

The experiences include tests of physical skill such as “Dribble!” “Dunk!” and “Combine!”, museum-like learning experiences like “Players” and the two films, photo opportunities like “Champions” and “Draft Day”, and interactive games like “Slingshot” and “Trivia”. The layout of each experience resembles Disney Quest almost exactly. There is one big space in the middle, and each experience is nestled in its own little corner of the room.

Physical Skill-Based Experiences

The physical skill-based experiences were probably the most disappointing and poorly put together part of the whole experience. The entire time I was participating in each skill challenge, all I could think to myself was “I could do this exact same thing at my local Rec Center’s basketball court”. The Combine challenge was an experience where you could measure your wing span, jump height, and shoot a couple basketballs into a hoop (similar to a High School gym class.) It was surrounded with such a complex netting system, that I was more focused on shooting the ball over the net to avoid it bouncing right back into my face, than I was getting it in the hoop. Additionally, the experience had NO audio whatsoever. All directions were confusingly projected onto a wall and I was just awkwardly standing there in silence the entire time, wondering if I was doing it correctly.

The “Dribble!” challenge was by far the worst individual experience of them all. While this challenge at least provided some directional audio, I actually preferred it didn’t. Here, you stand in front of a camera with a basketball and are instructed to dribble the basketball. First with your dominant hand, then with your non-dominant hand, and finally alternating between the two. The camera is supposed to track the ball movement and record your accuracy but, unless I’m truly that bad at dribbling a basketball, it doesn’t work very well. The experience is boring and completely forgetful.

The “Dunk!” challenge was one of the more entertaining options. Here, you started with a basketball and a very short hoop. You can practice your dunk as the hoop can be raised until it reaches a difficult 10 feet, ending the challenge. This was probably the only challenge that actually resulted in me breaking a sweat.

The final physical challenge was “Shoot!”, which was a neat opportunity to play on a large (though not regulation size), professional-looking NBA court. You were paired up with a Cast Member and were assisted to one side of the court (one player per side). The Cast Member would then pass balls to you as you ran around the three point line trying to make as many as you could as quickly as you could. There was a virtual crowd projected on the wall that would cheer you on as you made baskets, however at my skill level, I didn’t make many. This was an enjoyable experience that allowed for interaction with employees and the chance to feel like you’re actually playing on a court.

Arcade Games

The interactive games have a ton of potential, yet most of them either have an “underdone” feel like the arcade, or straight up don’t work, like “Slingshot!”

The Arcade is, quite literally, a massive row of basketball hoop games (yes, like the kind you find at Chuck E. Cheese) and Xbox trials of NBA-related games like NBA 2k19. That’s it. We spent a total of around 5 minutes in the arcade before getting bored.

The Trivia area had a lot of potential to be fun, had it been a little more busy. There are approximately 20 stations, allowing for up to 20 people to compete against each other and have their score displayed on one big leader board at the front of the room. We were the only two people playing at the time, which caused it to be boring and felt as though we weren’t competing. The questions were challenging and the interface between the kiosk and the large screen at the front of the room worked well.

The Replay area was extremely hidden as the windows to the experience are covered, and the sign is so vague, you don’t even realize it’s there until a Cast Member invites you in. This game allows you to make the call as to wether or not an NBA play was a good or bad call, similar to the NBA Replay Center in New Jersey. Features like zoom, pause, and change angle allow you to get a close look at what actually happened during the play, and you then hit “confirm” or “overturn” to make your decision.

Finally, the Slingshot challenge had the most potential of all to be a great and unique new game. The premise of the game was to shoot foam balls into basketball hoops using slingshots. It fell short because it just didn’t work. The slingshots themselves didn’t pull back far enough, causing the foam balls to fall short of the hoop every time. If you angled the slingshot correctly and pulled back just a little farther than what I would have considered safe, the ball does make it to the hoop, but is still extremely difficult to make in as it bounces out often. Throughout our entire 3-4 minute round, neither myself or my partner got a single ball through the hoop, which was pretty disappointing.

Photo Opportunities

The two photo opportunities at the experience work similarly to PhotoPass, except they are machine-based instead of working with an actual photographer, which is disappointing in itself. The Champions photo allows you to tap in with your MagicBand, and the machine takes a series of three pictures of you pretending to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, and the NBA MVP award trophy. The photos are well-themed as a backdrop filled with confetti makes it look like you really did just win a championship, but the photos are taken quickly and there isn’t much opportunity for posing like there would be with a PhotoPass photographer.

The other photo experience, “Draft Day” allows you to be selected by your favorite NBA team and have another series of three photos taken next to a wax model of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. When you tap into the photo kiosk, your personalized username and favorite team are displayed on the screen behind you, which creates an amazing, personalized photo which makes it look like you were actually drafted by your favorite team. Again, having a PhotoPass photographer with things like props could make this experience a lot more enjoyable, but as we’ve seen before, the machines are slowly taking over Walt Disney World.

Players – Inside the Player Sanctuary

The Players experience was a museum-like display which felt like you were stepping into an actual NBA locker room. Each locker was filled with NBA memorabilia, shoes, jerseys, and other typical locker room finds. In between each locker there was a large touch screen which you could interact with to view current NBA team rosters, statistics, and league standings. It was a neat touch, but again, I found myself thinking “I could have just Googled this.”

The two films are located in the very back corner of the first floor, the entry area is composed of literal gray walls and vague signs. We didn’t even realize it was part of the experience until we were on our way out because of how poorly themed it was. There are two movies composed of 10 minutes each.

Overall

Overall, the interactive elements were disappointing as there was a huge lack of actual incorporation of the elements into the experiences. Besides showing my favorite team’s logo and username on the screens in an effort to display leader boards and keep score for things like Trivia, and Slingshot, and with the one exception of displaying your favorite team and username on Draft Day, there was virtually no other incorporation of the customizable elements. Most of the experience was MagicBand-oriented and you had to “tap in” at every single experience, so I hope to see a more broad use of the personalization after grand opening and on the My Disney Experience app.

This experience was designed for the true, die-hard NBA or basketball fan. I can’t realistically see any other demographic spending the hefty $35 to get into this experience and actually enjoy it. Not even kids have a lot to do here, as most of the experience is NBA regulation-sized basketballs and hoops, making it difficult for kids to enjoy. I really don’t even think the general sports fan will enjoy this. It’s so specific to all things basketball that I think they’ve made their demographic too small, and when you combine that with the lazy, poorly put-together experiences, this one is a huge fail in my book.

Could the typical theme park tourist fall for this type of experience purely because of the familiar NBA branding? Do you think this will be a success for the general public or a failure like Disney Quest? Sound off in the comments and go Magic!

About the author

Cameron F

Contact Cameron at [email protected]
Cameron is an Orlando local who has had a life long passion for Central Florida's theme parks.

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Concrete K
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Concrete K

This experience was a” missed shot” once they tore down Disney Quest.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Not sure how many people come to Disney are big sports fans unless they go to the ESPN area already offered within the Disney area. I am not confident that the NBA Experience will be successful.

TomT
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TomT

I think Cameron is right with this experience. They had something similar at Universal and now this type of concept is over here. Not sure how this fits into Disney Springs either. I think it does come down to who will actually go to this since if it is semi full word gets out that it really isn’t busy and folks really don’t go to something with bad word of mouth. They had a lot of time to develop some cool experiences and seem to focus on the sizzle rather than the substance. The gift shop has some great items… Read more »

Dale Ruegg
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Dale Ruegg

Great review, and spot on!!! I haven’t been there yet, however, us humans have such a poor memory. This same type of environment was set up year ago with Universal. Apparently, Disney did not do their research. Or perhaps they did, and they just missed the basket! Disney already has the ESPN place on the Boardwalk. I would think they could come up with a better opportunity.

475Tlo
Guest
475Tlo

This review is painful to read! “It was a neat touch, but again, I found myself thinking “I could have just Googled this.”” If you are involved in the world of basketball this sounds amazing and would appeal to so many kids, teens and adults who play basketball or are fans of the sport. You say that it targets a small demographic, but isn’t that the point? There are several people who don’t like Disney and would hate going to something like Pop-Up Disney in DLR’s Downtown Disney, all it is is a photo op of Mickey themed backdrops. That’s… Read more »

Hilly
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Hilly

This response was “painful to read”. With all of the quotes you listed from the review, you literally missed the most important one: “This experience was designed for the true, die-hard NBA or basketball fan. I can’t realistically see any other demographic spending the hefty $35 to get into this experience and actually enjoy it.” Cameron said exactly what your countering with in your response in his overall review.

DisneyQuest Fan
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DisneyQuest Fan

Woooow. So based off this review alone it sounds almost exactly like Disney Quest except for an EVEN MORE niche demographic. Why Disney wouldn’t just spend the time to update Disney Quest into something truly to stand the test of time is beyond me. Disney Quest could have been a perfect mix between a large selection of retro games for the older crowd and more advanced VR things like The Void is doing with Star Wars for the younger crowd. The only reason I see this sticking around is if Disney has some contract with the NBA to continually improve… Read more »

Ginger Busek
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Ginger Busek

I’m thinking my 17-year-old NBA fan son would absolutely love this and would probably have to be dragged away from it. However, I would hate to have to pay $35 for me to experience it with him. I’m guessing there’s a gift shop on your way out too, where’s you can purchase $100 jerseys!

Andrew Lafleur
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Andrew Lafleur

Sounds boring and a waste of time and money if you’re not a basketball fan. I think a lot of people will pass on this due to price.

Wnew
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Wnew

This idea was DOA but I’m sure Disney will rebrand it after 5 years and make it into a successful restaurant.

Hilly
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Hilly

Very disappointing. However, I am not at all surprised because I knew this was going to be a dud when they first announced it. It does not fit into the Disney Springs theme at all. It’s designed for a completely niche demographic. It doesn’t appear that this would be a fun “redo” experience either (once is enough, especially for $35). What really stinks is that it’s such a huge space that is just going to be wasted now for years to come because even if this is a fail, they won’t just shut it down immediately.

Graham
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Graham

You know, I just read all the comments, and sure, there are those people that love basketball and will love this, but as it was compared to the pop up Disney thing in California, I would think, all in all, there are probably more people coming to Disney who love Disney and would be interested in doing that than there are die hard basketball people… After all, it’s Disney… People go to Disney for Disney experiences. I’m not going to defend Disney Quest, cause, let’s be serious, that place needed to either be majorly renovated, or gotten rid of, but… Read more »

Xion
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Xion

The exact dud I expected this to be. Reading the review was cathartic at least to know my hatred of this from the moment it was announced to be taking away DisneyQuest (which I loved) is entirely warranted. Completely unsurprised it flops this hard between the concept and the fact that Universal did basically this years ago and it flopped so hard.

Hope they get an idea for something new and good for this space soon. Anything that replaces this experience has to be an improvement.

Mike
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Mike

I thought this was a terrible idea from the moment they announced it (and i don’t anyone i spoke to that thought it was a good idea)…….I think most people would bypass this even if it was free, never mind at a cost of $35 per person………The basketball people will be upset with this review, but i think this is a fair assessment of a very limited niche audience. I can’t imagine even the diehards going here more than once. They could have used this building for a lot of other things……..This is going to be a big bust i… Read more »

The Mad Hatter
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The Mad Hatter

So it’s niche and that’s a problem? They made an entire land in a theme park dedicated to Avatar and then did it again with Star Wars (not to mention the merch EVERYWHERE.) The NBA is no more niche than those movies, it’s a global brand. I don’t like Star Wars but I understand others do and that it’s there for them. They’re including something for everyone.

TimP
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TimP

It’s not a restaurant? Where’s my Shaq shake? $35 is way too much money to just get a NBA experience as if you’re a pro basketball player. Maybe go to Crayola Experience instead. I think most people just want to kill a few hours with a fun experience, but sometimes Disney prices themselves out of their audience. Your review is awfully hard especially since tourists would be more forgiving.

Kimberly
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Kimberly

Do the “photo opportunities” get uploaded to memory maker if you have it? Or do you have to buy the photos taken, if you want them?

Phillip Ratter
Guest
Phillip Ratter

Straight up, I loved DisneyQuest. I just wish they had maintained it. Personally, I’m not taking my family to this. Just feels like a waste of money. I don’t understand why they didn’t take DisneyQuest and remodel it into a Disney Dave and busters. A nice restaurant on the top couple floors, serve alcohol after a certain time at night when you are playing the arcade games like a barcade (but not, since that word is trademarked. But you get the idea.). Just rotate the games, and make the floor plan flow better. They even had two arcades in Disney… Read more »

DMotown
Guest
DMotown

My guess is that this was subsidized by the NBA and will last as long as they fund it. Do not think it will stick around on it’s own for too long if that funding goes away. If this was put in purely by Disney on the hopes of tapping a niche market, it will last even less time. Wrong product, badly delivered at the wrong place.

NB-Hey
Guest
NB-Hey

@Cameron, it would be helpful to understand your interest level in basketball. If it really isn’t your sport, it won’t appeal to you. I don’t think the attempt here is to attract non-basketball fans, it is to cater to fans. If you have no interest in roller coasters, why ride one and provide an unfair review of it? If the mentality is everything should appeal to everyone, you are sadly wrong. I’m not a NBA fan, but I love basketball. You nailed a couple disappointing concerns with the experience, but if you’re remotely athletic AND have interest in basketball, this… Read more »

E T
Guest
E T

hated disneyquest. boring and everything was always broke. will never ever go to the nba thing. people with kids wont bother either
because they can spend that $35 to eat at
disney springs instead
of throwing a basketball around. sounded like a fail to me like polo chicken and ride makerz and the virgin store