On Wednesday evening, the NBA made the decision to suspend the 2019-20 season indefinitely, following reports that a Utah Jazz player — said to be center Rudy Gobert — tested positive for coronavirus. While this might hint that games will resume at some point in the future and possibly played in empty arenas, the latest rumors suggest that a number of team owners would rather see the season canceled outright.
As reported by NBC Sports Bay Area, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated appeared on NBC Sports Boston’s Boston Sports Tonight, where he discussed what he’s heard regarding the fate of the 2019-20 campaign. While he said that “most” of the owners who took part in a conference call on Wednesday morning appeared to prefer playing their games in empty arenas, he added that there seems to be a “growing support” for shutting things down and calling off the remainder of the season.
“The people I’ve talked to tonight, they don’t have any idea how long this is going to last, and if I had to characterize it any way, there’s not a lot of optimism that this season is going to be able to be resumed. There’s more of a sense that — and they’re getting this from their own medical experts — that there’s a real possibility that this gets worse countrywide before it gets better.”
Jazz release statement confirming one of their players tested positive for COVID-19.
"The health and safety of our players, our organization, those throughout our league, and all those potentially impacted by this situation are paramount in our discussions." pic.twitter.com/2lGCdNfmVG
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) March 12, 2020
Concluding his remarks on what took place during the owners’ call, Mannix said that based on what his sources have told him, he’s skeptical that NBA team owners, in general, would opt for contingency measures to ensure the season resumes, including playing without live audiences or at smaller venues rather than their usual home court.
If the NBA decides to cancel the entire 2019-20 campaign as a result of coronavirus concerns, such a move will likely mark the first time in over 25 years that a major North American sports league cuts its season short without crowning a champion. However, it was a player’s strike that ended the 1994 MLB season in August of that year, effectively canceling the World Series in the process, as recalled by ESPN.
Aside from professional basketball in the U.S., the world of college basketball has also been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. As reported by FiveThirtyEight, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that next week’s men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments will kick off with “only essential staff and limited family” allowed in attendance. Similarly, a number of conferences have taken similar actions for their annual tournaments, with the Ivy League opting for cancellation and the Mid-American Conference and Big West scheduling games without audiences.