Coronavirus: NBA tells teams to plan on playing empty arenas, LeBron says no way

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Staples Center. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA wants its teams to prepare to play games without fans if necessary because of the coronavirus crisis, but LeBron James already says he won’t play basketball in an empty arena.

The league circulated a memo to its teams Friday telling them to prepare in case it becomes necessary to play games without fans or media, as sports leagues in Europe have already done. The memo detailed potential actions that teams might need to take “if it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.”

But when James was asked about that possibility after he scored 37 points in his Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-103 win over the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, the NBA’s leading active scorer was definitive.

“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James said. “I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, says teams should identify which team and arena people would be necessary to conduct games, and be able to communicate quickly with non-essential staff, as well as ticket holders and corporate partners.

Teams should also be prepared “for the possibility of implementing temperature checks on players, team staff, referees, and anyone else who is essential to conducting such a game in the team’s arena.”

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Last Update: 10:46 KSA 13:46 - GMT 10:46
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