NBA suspends season indefinitely over coronavirus pandemic

Jazz center Rudy Gobert talks to teammate Royce O'Neale (23) during a game earlier this season.
(George Frey / AFP via Getty Images)

The NBA on Wednesday indefinitely suspended the 2019-20 season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

“The test result was reported shortly prior to the tipoff of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena,” the league said in a statement. “The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The regular season is scheduled to end April 15, with the playoffs beginning three days later.

The NBA’s announcement came during a flurry of coronavirus-related news that seemingly touched all fabrics of American life, ranging from the World Health Organization classifying COVID-19 as a pandemic, fans being shut out of the NCAA tournament, a presidential address and actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson testing positive for the disease.


The league’s suspension comes during a season full of surreal moments ranging from the exciting to the heartbreaking. The Lakers and Clippers were considered favorites for a championship after mortgaging their futures to acquire superstars in the offseason.

The Lakers landed in China for exhibition games after an international incident was sparked by a pro-Hong Kong tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The league’s former commissioner, David Stern, suffered a brain hemorrhage that eventually cost him his life. And Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, along with daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.

Lakers employees are being advised to work from home for the foreseeable future. There are no team activities scheduled for Thursday. The Clippers also will not practice Thursday.

“We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials and the NBA to determine how to best move forward as we gather more information,” the Jazz said.

According to reports, Jazz players and media members covering the team are being tested for the virus in Oklahoma City. It is likely they will return to Utah via bus.

In the last week, the Jazz hosted Toronto and played at Detroit, Boston and New York.

The Twitter world reacts to the NBA season being suspended indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

March 11, 2020

Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier, Gobert’s teammate on the French national squad, tweeted that he was just on the phone with Gobert and “he is doing good.”

And as soon as reports surfaced that a player had tested positive, players around the league began to react.

“It’s done,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley tweeted.

Minutes later, he turned out to be right. The NBA announced the season would be suspended after Wednesday’s games. The final game, New Orleans at Sacramento, was subsequently canceled because one of the officials had worked a Jazz game this week.

“This is something out of a movie,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after his team’s game. “You just don’t expect it to happen in real life.”

Rick Welts, the president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, said that not playing a game will lead to a “multimillion-dollar loss.” Player compensation will be affected because basketball-related income drives the NBA’s salary cap. Those hit hardest, Welts added, will be the 1,500 part-time employees who work home games.

“We do have a number of people who live paycheck to paycheck who will be impacted,” Welts said.


The NBA had been bracing for the possibility since the virus arrived in the U.S. The league banned nonessential personnel from locker rooms, including media, last weekend. Multiple memos were sent to teams instructing them to partner with infectious disease experts and to put protocols in place in case testing became necessary.

Behind the scenes, league officials were most concerned with one of their players testing positive because of the ripple effects it would cause beyond the standard health concerns. Everyone shared the same message — if one test came back positive, the entire league would screech to a stop.

Still, seemingly, the seriousness of the issue hadn’t fully gotten through.

Monday, after the league put new media protocols in place, Gobert, of all people, ended a news conference by touching the recording devices and microphones in front of him.

Now with a positive test infecting their player pool, the league moved swiftly. The NBA announced it would be suspending its G League season as well.

Cuban, like Welts, expressed concern for the hourly employees who work in arenas as security guards, vendors and maintenance.

“I reached out to the folks at the arena and our folks at the Mavs to find out what it would cost to financially support people who are not going to be able to come to work,” Cuban said. “We’ll do some things there, we may ask them to go do some volunteer work in exchange. We’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s something that’s important to me.”