COVID-19 results in a cataclysm of basketball cancellations


Rudy Gobert at the free throw line / Richard Bartlaga / / CC BY-ND 2.0

Rudy Gobert (27) shoots a free throw; Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 11, resulting in a suspension of the NBA season.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., on March 11, the National Basketball Association (NBA) issued an announcement in which they are “suspending gameplay following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice.”

The decision to postpone the season came after Utah Jazz all-star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, many teams made the executive decision to play out their games without fans in attendance, leading to the NCAA to do the same for the duration of the upcoming March Madness tournament, allowing only family members to watch live.

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, made a statement about his choice to all.

“I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Emmert said.

However, things escalated when Gobert found out he was infected, shocking the basketball world.

In an ESPN broadcast, the Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said, “This is crazy. This can’t be true. […] It seemed more like out of a movie than reality.”

The NBA’s announcement reached further than just players and owners, however.

“At first, it seemed like something fake, to be honest, but it started to make sense after I heard that a player had it,” said Josh Graves, a Carlmont junior.

For many fans, the news was heartbreaking after this year brought many surprises from previous years.

The Golden State Warriors, who had made NBA Finals appearances in each of the last five years, were the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention with a current 15-50 record. The Los Angeles Clippers, who had made two substantial offseason acquisitions in all-stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, was considered to have the second-best odds of winning a championship.

But perhaps nobody was hit harder by this news than fans of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers had made significant offseason moves, shipping Lonzo Ball and other young phenoms to New Orleans in return for Anthony Davis, as well as signing LeBron James, one of basketball’s all-time greats. The move seemingly paid off, as they are currently the title favorites and lead the Western Conference with a 49-14 record, clinching a playoff appearance for the first time since 2013.

Yet on January 26, Lakers players and fans were all struck by tragedy with the death of beloved Laker, Kobe Bryant. Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others. And now, on top of that, their dreams of winning a championship have most likely been dashed.

“Right now, I want the NBA to resume. The Lakers have been great this year, and the entire city of Los Angeles wants the Lakers to win a championship for Kobe [Bryant], and I want there to be playoffs and a championship so that can happen,” said Jake Ascher, a Carlmont junior.

Escalating the situation, early on the morning of March 12, Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive for coronavirus.

The two stars’ diagnoses resulted in panic throughout basketball, and just after 9 a.m., four NCAA conferences (the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and AAC) canceled their conference tournaments for men’s basketball. Just forty minutes later, all Power Five conferences, as well as the Group of Five, declared the end of their competitions.

For Spencer Kelley, a junior and Cal Bear fan, the news of the Pac-12 tournament cancelation was devastating.

“I was pretty upset about it, especially because Cal finally got a win and was advancing to the next round, but I understand why they had to cancel it due to player safety and health,” Kelley said.

To make matters worse, at 11:03 a.m., CBS Sports reported that the top officials of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness) were discussing the future of the event, expecting to make their decision expected today.

However, plans went awry when two powerhouses of March Madness past, Duke University and the University of Kansas, suspended their athletic programs and withdrew from the tournament at 11:08 a.m.

“With these teams playing such a significant role in past tournaments, it was a sign of how deeply this pandemic has affected us. We need to recognize that we will have to make sacrifices for the public good, and it’s unfortunate, but sports are not essential,” said Thaddeus Duffy, a junior.

The final blow came at 1:17 p.m. when the NCAA officially canceled March Madness.

“I feel bad for the kids; this is a massive experience for them. For many, it’s their last opportunity to play basketball in a professional setting, but I expected this to happen,” said Emily van Sebille, an English teacher at Carlmont.

Despite the bad news, however, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver offered an ounce of hope for basketball fans, announcing that the NBA will be suspended at least 30 days. While this means there will be no basketball for at least a month, it creates the potential of returning in late April, either continuing the season from where it left off or entering the playoffs immediately.