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NBA’s COVID-19 Shutdown quickly transformed pandemic into a harsh reality

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On March 11th, 2020, tipoff between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder had been delayed – no one seemed to know why – but on-court the crowd still chants “O-K-C! O-K-C!”

The starting lineups had been introduced. Players waited on the court for the game to begin, then with no explanation headed to the locker rooms. This moment in time will never be forgotten.

The World Health Organization had declared the novel coronavirus outbreak to be a global pandemic earlier that day. The development, however ominous, felt distant, easy to explain, a life-or-death problem for other parts of the world. For some it was simply annoyance.

Then the music ended. Seated courtside, John Leach, the Thunder’s director of events and entertainment, handed a cellphone to public address announcer Mario Nanni.

“Fans,” Nanni said, reading a statement from the phone, “due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed. You are all safe. Take your time in leaving the arena tonight and do so in an orderly fashion.”

The chanting crowd was no more as they groaned, murmured in confusion, and booed. 

Two days prior, a news conference was held and Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz Center, made a show of touching the tape recorders and microphones and tested positive for COVID-19. Thus, the NBA had suspended the season. 

More than a president’s televised words or an actor’s surprise announcement, pro basketballs sudden halt foreshadowed the disruption we’d soon experience in virtually every area of life.

Grocery shelves had been emptied of toilet paper, bananas, bottled water,  pasta, hand sanitizer, and canned vegetables. 

The next day, the four major pro sports leagues – the NBA, NFLNHL, and MLB – closed their locker rooms and clubhouses to the media as a protective measure. 


NBA’s COVID-19 shutdown quickly transformed pandemic into a harshly reality was originally published on LA Times


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