LeBron James has not been shy about his struggles coming to grips with the sudden suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
The Los Angeles Lakers were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference at 49-14 and were ready to shift gears toward a championship run in the 2020 NBA playoffs. Instead, James is now at home going through his fair share of basketball withdrawals.
James is admittedly anxious to do whatever it takes to get back onto the court again, even if it means going against his initial stance of not wanting to play without any fans in attendance. It seems Magic Johnson can sympathize with how he is feeling.
Johnson acknowledged James’ distaste with playing in an empty arena during an appearance on CNN before expressing optimism they will be able to make it work:
“LeBron is right. It’s hard to play without fans,” said Johnson, who stepped down as Lakers president of basketball operations in 2019. “You play one game, you’ll adjust to not having fans there. We’ve all played our whole life on the playgrounds and in pickup games without fans being there. Basketball players will know how to adjust.”
Johnson added that while he is hoping for a return to action, the biggest priority is ensuring player safety, via Mark Medina of USA Today:
Even if Johnson admitted he is “looking forward to see if the Lakers are going to win the championship,” he seemed more concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic than worried if sports will resume.
James was hardly the only player to shoot down the notion of playing a game without fans prior to the NBA’s decision to suspend the season. Now that the severity of the situation has been determined, the prospect of having games in an empty arena has now seemingly become inevitable.
Johnson is certainly no stranger to dealing with a pandemic after becoming the face of one when he announced that he was HIV-positive back in 1991. His celebrity status helped raise awareness to prevent the spread of this virus on a global scale.
The league still has yet to determine a timetable for a potential return to the court and commissioner Adam Silver has indicated that a decision on the season’s fate will not come until early May. Even if they ultimately do deem it safe for the players to finish out the season, there will be some major restrictions in place — at which point not having any fans at the games may very well become the least of their concerns.