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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Former Western Women’s Basketball Star Relishes Time in NBA Bubble

Lexi Bland practicing basketball October 2020
Lexi Bland practicing basketball in November 2020.

Lexie Bland has been working inside the NBA bubble this summer.

By Jordan Stone

Lebron James. Jimmy Butler. Damien Lillard. Lexie Bland.

Those are a few of the people who have gotten to take part in the NBA bubble, the isolated basketball world that for the past few months has been the league’s home. James, Butler and Lillard are basketball superstars. Then, there’s Bland. Bland was a senior on Western’s women’s basketball team during the 2019-20 season. She is relishing the chance to be around some of the greatest basketball players in the world.

“Being from such a small town that is so distant from the NBA, to get an opportunity to be here … it’s a surreal experience,” Bland said in a telephone interview. “Talking with friends I’ve met here, we’ve just said, ‘Like, wow. We’re really doing this.’”

Bland, who grew up in Ellensburg, was offered the opportunity to work in the bubble through a connection from a friend. 

She jumped at the chance. 

To gain access to the bubble, she had to go through the NBA’s protocols.

“You just had to quarantine and get negative tests at one hotel,” Bland said. “As soon as you got your second negative test, you got transferred to the main bubble.”

The NBA bubble, which is located near Orlando, Florida, at Walt Disney World, was the NBA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been using strict rules and testing protocols to try and ensure players’ safety. There have been zero positive tests from players or personnel that were admitted inside the bubble, according to the Washington Post.

Bland has played a role in that success. After serving as a team attendant, she has transitioned to helping oversee the personal protective equipment (PPE), making sure that it is available at all times.

“Working for such a big, well-ran association was really intimidating,” Bland said. “You obviously want to do well.”

It’s no surprise to some of the people who know Bland best that she is finding success in her new environment.

“She does a lot of things that go unnoticed,” Bland’s sister, Shannon Bland said. “If there is a job that needs to be done, then she’s just going to do it. I think that goes a long way, especially when she was working with the athletes.”

What does a day look like for Bland?

“Basically, there is a daily checklist that I go through and make sure it’s all taken care of,” she said. “I carry a lot of boxes around.”

This experience hasn’t been without its challenges for Bland, however. Going into the bubble, she didn’t know anyone.

“It was super, super intimidating at first. I was definitely really nervous,” Bland said. “Everyone is so helpful. Anyone is willing to help. It made it a lot easier.”

To Stacey Turrell—Bland’s assistant coach during her time at Western—It’s  no shock that she went for it, even though she didn’t know anyone going in.

“She is so independent,” Turrell said. “I’m not surprised.”

Turrell also said that she is super excited that one of her former players is working in the NBA bubble.

“I have to tell people what she is doing,” Turrell said. “I have to brag.”

Turrell and her two children have been searching for Bland while watching the games, but they have yet to find her.

Back in March, Bland and the rest of her Western teammates had their season cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Bland’s experience working in the NBA bubble has helped her process that experience and rekindle her love of the game, according to Bland’s sister.

“It was a great distraction for her after the horrific ending to her senior season that could have been pretty magical,” Shannon Bland said. “This is an awesome way for her to still be part of something that she loves.”

Bland expressed the same sentiment.

“It’s definitely made me miss basketball a lot,” Bland said.

After the NBA season winds to a close this month, Bland will head back to Bellingham to serve as the student assistant for Western’s Women’s basketball team while she finishes her degree. Bland said she plans on graduating after the winter quarter and plans on pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant. Bland expressed an interest in using that degree to try to work in the NBA some day.

Bland has been using her time in the NBA bubble to pick up out-of-bounds plays and other basketball tips from the professionals to use in her new role as the student assistant.

“She’s got such a great basketball mind,” Turrell said. “We can’t wait to get her back.”

It hasn’t been all work for Bland in the bubble. The NBA offers activities like bike rides and fishing, but Bland said she has been spending a lot of time reading. Her favorite thing she’s read? “The Biography of Malcom X.”

There has been one thing that Bland has missed out on in her time in Florida according to her sister.

“She still hasn’t seen an alligator,” Shannon Bland said.


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