TBT bubble brings back AAU memories for players


By: Gabe Maturo

The bubble environment wasn't totally new for TBT players

For many players, the TBT bubble restored memories from their AAU basketball days.

Before every game played in the tournament, all players from both teams had to have their bags packed. 

If a team won, the players would get to go back to their room and unpack their bags as they look forward to the next round. For the losing team it was simple: grab your bags and go home.

“It’s tough,” said Herd That guard Jon Elmore. “Your goal going in is to win the whole thing and every game you had to pack your bags up. It just made the stakes that much higher. If you win, you get to unpack your bags and stick around. And if you lose, your bags are already packed and you just go straight home.”

The pregame packing-of-the-bags would hold true in every round of the tournament. Some teams would pack their bags once, while others would continue to pack and unpack their bags as they advanced.

“It was honestly weird,” said Sideline Cancer big Eric Thompson. “Our team mentality was ‘alright man, let’s pack these bags and go out there and get them.’ A lot of us didn’t pack our bags and we were so confident we were going to win that we even left some stuff in the room.”

While unpacking bags after a win became a confidence booster for winning teams, it made the gravity of the loss much higher for the losing team.

“They let us know before the game how everything was set up,” said Team Hines guard Marcus Thornton. “We knew that our bags were over there and that they were ready to go. It was like a walk of shame in a sense, walking out with all your stuff after losing.”

For many players, this ritual wasn’t something new to them. As teenagers in their AAU basketball careers, their teams would go through a very similar process.

The hotel life in the TBT bubble revived other memories of AAU for some players - such as staying posted up in a hotel for the entirety of a tournament. While they weren’t necessarily under strict quarantine measures, spending days at a time under the same roof was a common occurrence.

“It’s like going to nationals in AAU or playing in a big time tournament,” said Elmore. “You’re locked in a hotel with your boys just kickin’ it. Having everybody there with the goal in mind to win it all is very similar to AAU. It’s really you and your team versus the world at that point.”

For many teams, being stuck together was beneficial. It provided them a chance to increase team chemistry and bond with each other.

“It [the bubble] was honestly great because a lot of the things we did were team oriented,” said Thompson. “It helped being in the hotel with your teammates”

A lot of the teams in TBT took advantage of their team lounge and built on their chemistry, as they would play video games, cards, and participate in different activities together.

“That’s really what AAU was,” said Thornton. “Being in the hotel with your teammates. It was good to see all of my guys and compete.”