UPDATE on 3/10/20:
LeBron James spoke to the media before the Lakers’ game tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, being asked more about the coronavirus situation as the NBA considers what to do. LeBron was previously asked about it after the win against the Bucks, as it was reported by Shams Charania/The Athletic that the NBA told teams to prepare for possibly playing games without fans in attendance. LeBron stated that he would not play without fans in attendance, but he has now clarified that he did not realize it was being seriously discussed in reference to the outbreak of coronavirus. Below is a video of him stating that he would respect the league’s decision if it came to having no fans, considering the seriousness of the situation (h/t Mark Medina of USA Today for the video).
LeBron James said when initially asked about possibility of playing without fans at games, he wasn’t aware there were talks behind scenes about that possibility. He says while he wants to continue playing in front of fans that if it gets to that he will trust the decision makers.
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 10, 2020
LeBron James has a new stance on his sentiments of possibly playing games without fans in the arena pic.twitter.com/RbmNKiOTp6
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 10, 2020
ORIGINAL STORY on 03/07/20:
Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks in a huge statement win. It was very impressive, led by the Lakers’ resident King, LeBron James. He had 37 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals, as the Lakers finally quieted the haters who said they couldn’t win against the true title contenders of the NBA.
Sources: The NBA has sent a memo to its franchises explaining that, due to coronavirus outbreak, teams should be preparing to play games without fans in attendance and identifying “essential staff” present for these games — should it be necessary.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 7, 2020
After the game, LeBron was asked many questions about the win, but was also asked about the above report from Shams Charania/The Athletic that said the franchises around the Association were notified that games could possibly be played with no fans in attendance. He seemed to be somewhat light-hearted about his answer, but he sure was definitive, saying that he would not be playing games in front of zero fans.
“I ain’t playing. No fans in the crowd, that’s who I play for. I play for my teammates but I play for the fans, that’s what it’s all about. If I drove to the arena and there ain’t no fans in there? I ain’t playing, so, they can do what they want to do.”
"If I show up to an arena and there ain't no fans in there, I ain't playing."
LeBron on possibly playing NBA games without any fans in attendance due to coronavirus outbreak. pic.twitter.com/Ee5XMQ40X6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 7, 2020
Who knows how serious the NBA is about the teams around the league possibly playing without fans. It may be a precautionary memo, just preparing the teams for the possibility as it would be a massive financial blow to all teams. This isn’t surprising given the outbreak of coronavirus in the world and how it has spread into and throughout the United States.
This isn’t unheard of in regards to coronavirus, as Italy just recently made it so that all sporting events in the next month would take place without fans. However, they have a much larger amount of confirmed cases within a much smaller area of land compared to the U.S.
Who knows if LeBron James will have to drive to an empty Staples Center to play NBA games, but it definitely seems like it could be a possibility. You have to imagine that he would play, and that he wouldn’t push back against the NBA regarding the decision given that it wouldn’t be made without serious consideration given the delicacy of the situation. According to this digital map created by Johns Hopkins CSSE, there are currently over 100,000 confirmed cases across the world with almost 3,500 confirmed deaths (14 in the United States). If the NBA feels that they can prevent the spread of the virus by making this decision, then they will do so.