The NBA will be going on indefinite hiatus due to coronavirus concerns.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” reads a statement issued by the league Wednesday.
Suspension of the season came after an incident at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Just before tip-off in a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, officials received confirmation that a player for the Jazz, believed to be Rudy Gobert, has “preliminarily tested positive” for COVID-19.
“At that time, tonight’s game was canceled,” the NBA statement says. “The affected player was not in the arena.”
According to The New York Times, there was a delay of around 20 minutes while officials decided on what to do and how to inform fans filling the arena. A dance group and band were sent out to entertain the crowd before a formal announcement came over the speakers, telling fans that the game had been “postponed due to unforeseen circumstances” and asked them to calmly exit the building.
Beginning on Thursday, some NBA games were to be played without fans in the stands, starting with a Golden State Warriors home game against the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors play in the Bay Area, an epicenter of the American outbreak, where gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned.
Canceling games outright for the time being avoids playing info out of empty seats, which several prominent players, including LeBron James, had expressed discomfort about.
When first asked about games in front of an empty arena, James had bluntly responded, “I ain’t playing.” He quickly came around, however, noting Tuesday that, while he would have been “disappointed” by the fan-free solution, he understood that it made sense due to the seriousness of the COVID-19 risk.