Mark Cuban says 'Shark Tank' learned from NBA's bubble to keep staff safe from COVID-19

Cuban says the "Shark Tank" staff was in the bubble for 19 days.

December 27, 2020, 4:00 AM

Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who also owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, remembers the moment he learned the 2019-2020 season would be paused in March.

"It was right in the middle of a Mavs game," he told ABC's "The Year." "I remember it vividly, when I got the text saying the rest of the season was being postponed, and potentially canceled. I was stunned."

Amid soaring COVID-19 case numbers and a national reckoning on racial inequality, 22 teams traveled to Orlando, Florida, in late July with a limited number of people per team, including staff and family. The isolation zone became known as the "bubble."

Watch "The Year" on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC

In the zone, teams lived in three different hotels where social distance guidelines and protocols were enforced and people were tested daily.

"Up until the finals, we really didn't have any fans in there," Cuban said. "The only people that were able to attend were the people that were participating either as players, or staff in some manner."

The Mavericks competed in the playoffs this year, marking their first time in the postseason tournament since 2016.

PHOTO: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban watches on from behind the bench during the second half of an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena, Feb. 22, 2020, in Atlanta.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban watches on from behind the bench during the second half of an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena, Feb. 22, 2020, in Atlanta.
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images, FILE

Cuban credits the NBA for prioritizing "the health and safety of players, employees [and] fans" and for "taking a science-driven approach rather than an emotional or political" one.

"Players bought in and recognized the importance of this," Cuban said. "It wasn't just about playing a game. They realized that there were a lot of people whose livelihoods depended on those games being played and they took the responsibility seriously. And we got through our season with zero cases. Zero. It was incredible."

While filming season 12 of "Shark Tank" amid the pandemic, Cuban said the show "took a page from the NBA."

PHOTO: Mark Cuban spoke with ABC's "The Year" about being in the NBA's bubble and the bubble that "Shark Tank" later shot in to keep their staff safe.
Mark Cuban spoke with ABC's "The Year" about being in the NBA's bubble and the bubble that "Shark Tank" later shot in to keep their staff safe.
ABC

"We all went to the Venetian Hotel and quarantined," he said. "When I say 'all,' not just the sharks who were filming, not just the entrepreneurs who were participating, but the several hundred people on staff doing production, doing hair, doing makeup."

But transporting the hundreds of staff and entrepreneurs safely to Las Vegas proved to be a feat in itself.

"They took us directly from the car, directly to be tested, then up to our rooms," Cuban said. "We had to quarantine for three days before we started shooting and everybody had to have a negative test. The process in place was incredible."

He explained that every morning for 19 days, he'd get a knock on his door at "precisely" 7:30 a.m. to start a day of shooting.

"I'd have to put my mask on," he said. "There would be somebody there all masked up. I had to follow a very specific path to my little wardrobe room where I got to change in my professionally cleaned wardrobe … then I went to hair and makeup, where hair and makeup were dressed in hazmat suits."

With so many COVID-19 precautions in place and an entirely new studio, taping the show in Las Vegas was far different from the staff's normal routine at Sony Studios in Los Angeles, Cuban said. The layout of the set and traditions on the show changed too.

"We were six-and-a-half feet apart. The entrepreneurs could no longer come in and make a pitch and drop something in front of us as a sample, or if we do a deal, congratulate and hug," he said. "That all changed."

Still, Cuban said everyone supported and adhered to the rules. There was even a "quarantine czar," he said, to make sure every single protocol was followed over the course of a nearly 12-hour long shoot each day.

"We took the exact same path to go back to makeup to clean up, go back to wardrobe to give them back, in my case, my suit and shoes and everything so they could re-scrub it for the next day," he said.

PHOTO: Mark Cuban reacts to a pitch on "Shark Tank."
Mark Cuban reacts to a pitch on "Shark Tank."
Christopher Willard/ABC

Cuban said he had to follow arrows back to his room to ensure he was on the same exact path he followed hours earlier.

"In the 19 total days of shooting, I didn't see sunlight," he said. "I mean, that's how precise and strict that bubble was, and it worked. We got season 12 shot. We didn't have one single positive."

He said he was thankful to the hundreds of staff, production and crew members who were able to work while many others in Hollywood remained on lockdown.

"We're proud of that and we got the season shot, but it wasn't simple and it wasn't always fun," he said. "Not seeing sunlight can get to you a little bit, but it was something that was well worth doing."

Tuesday marked the start of the 2020-2021 basketball season. Commissioner Adam Silver said the "bubble" won't be implemented this year, but precautions for COVID-19 will still be in place.

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