Lakers star LeBron James spoke recently about the challenges facing the NBA amid the coronavirus pandemic. One of them is the prospect of playing games behind closed doors.
The NBA, like many sports around the world, has been suspended because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed almost 24,000 people globally. It remains to be seen whether the 2019-20 season will resume; commissioner Adam Silver is unwilling to provide a return date.
If the campaign relaunches, then it's likely games will be held in empty arenas. James isn't looking forward to that.
"What is the word 'sport' without 'fan'?" James said on the Road Trippin' Podcast. "There's no excitement. There's no crying. There's no joy. There's no back-and-forth.
"That's what also brings out the competitive side of the players, to know that you're going on the road in a hostile environment and, yes, you're playing against that opponent in front of you, but you really want to kick the fans' ass, too.
"So to get back on the floor, I would love it. I'm not going to sit here and say nothing. Like, if it's get out there and get back on the floor five-on-five ... but like, we can do that in scrimmages.
"Let's just go to each other's practice facility, put out a camera, just scrimmage and live stream it. ... I just don't know how we can imagine a sporting event without fans. It's just, it's a weird dynamic."
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There has been talk of the NBA heading straight into the playoffs if the season resumes, but James, whose Lakers lead the Western Conference with a 49-14 record, said: "One thing you can't just do is go straight to the playoffs. Because it discredits the 60-plus games that guys had fighting for that position."
After a difficult first season in Los Angeles, James had returned to his brilliant form and catapulted himself into the mix for a fifth MVP award. At the time of the NBA suspending the league on March 11, James was averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game.
As such, he is disappointed to lose the rhythm he felt was building toward the postseason.
"When you've been building six months of conditioning and preparation and then [it's gone], the narrative that I don't like [is], 'Well, now guys get so much rest' or, like, 'LeBron, he's 35, he's got so many minutes on his body, now he gets so much rest,'" James said. "It's actually the opposite for me because my body, when we stopped playing, was asking me, like, 'What the hell are you doing?'
"My body was like, 'Hey, man, what the hell is going on? It's March 13, you're getting ready for the playoffs, why are you shutting down right now?' And I was right there turning the corner, like, I felt like I was rounding third base, getting ready for the postseason. So the rest factor, I think it's a little bit [overblown]. Especially when you're in the full swing of things."