On March 12, the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended its season until further notice, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. There are 259 games left to be played this regular season, but nobody knows if things will resume.
After Gobert’s test came back positive, the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz was abruptly cancelled. Shortly after, the league decided to suspend the season indefinitely.
The NBA was the first sports league to suspend its games for the rest of the season. Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS) and National Hockey League (NHL) have suspended the playing of games this season as the virus brings the world to its knees. The NCAA cancelled the long-awaited March Madness tournament. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will not be cancelled, but instead, it will be postponed, after countries such as Canada and Australia announced they would not attend if the event was not postponed.
With Gobert infected, the league instructed the last five teams which competed against the Jazz to test their players for COVID-19 and to keep their players in isolation until then, as the virus spreads between people who come into close contact with one another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gobert was reportedly “careless” in the locker room and touched his teammates and their belongings, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Since Gobert’s diagnosis, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart tested positive for the coronavirus. Three other players of the Brooklyn Nets, three players of the Philadelphia 76ers, two players of the Los Angeles Lakers and one player of the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets also tested positive for the virus.
On March 12, league commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that the NBA has every intention of recommencing the season “if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.” Silver also alluded that after resuming the league, the games may be played in empty arenas to ensure the safety of the players, fans and team staff.
The suspension could cause significant financial repercussions for the league. Paying players’ salaries relies on revenue streams like jersey sales and television rights, but weeks without ticket sales could affect future salary caps. Furthermore, the playoffs were scheduled to begin next month, and viewership was expected to increase — teams are going to face huge financial losses.
But it warms my heart to see how several players and team owners have chosen to help their team staff in these uncertain, unprecedented times. Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans has pledged to cover the salaries of the Smoothie King Center employees for 30 days. Milwaukee Bucks star player Giannis Antetokounmpo announced that his family is pledging to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. Blake Griffin announced on Twitter that he would be donating $100,000 to the staff of Little Caesars Arena where his Detroit Pistons play. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declared that he would continue paying hourly employees who work at the American Airlines Center while games are suspended.
As a hardcore basketball fan, I truly hope that the NBA season resumes and that we get to watch the playoffs and finals, with all players healthy. It would be disheartening to see this competitive season come to such an end.