The National Basketball Association has decided to suspend the basketball season, after a player tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The player has been identified as Rudy Gobert, a center for the Utah Jazz who is known as the 'Stifle Tower.' In a statement, the league explained, "The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight's game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Center. At that time, tonight's game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena."
The game was about to start—but then players walked out:
Fans started booing:
After the news of his diagnosis broke, a recent video of Gobert touching microphones in a press room started circulating:
Gobert touched the microphones after being asked about the illness:
Over the weekend, as the coronavirus started to spread across the United States, there had been talk that the NBA and other sports leagues might consider games without spectators. Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James had said on Saturday that he wouldn't even consider playing without fans present—only to walk back his comments on Tuesday.
"It’s funny because when I was asked the question of ‘Would you play with no fans,’ I had no idea that it was actually a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus," he said. "Obviously, I would be very disappointed not having the fans, because that’s what I play for, my family and my fans... But you gotta listen to the people that’s keeping track of what’s going on, and if they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, safety of the franchise, safety of the league to mandate that, then we all listen to it."
On Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors announced that they would play the Brooklyn Nets at the Chase Center without fans; California and New York both have some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Before tonight's decision to suspend games, the NBA had reportedly been considering whether to put the season on hiatus or play without fans:
According to one reporter, the New Orleans Pelicans refused to play against the Sacramento Kings because one of the referees had observed a Monday night game with the Jazz:
The NBA's regular season was scheduled to end on April 15th, with playoffs running from mid-April through May, and the finals in June.