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LeBron James outlines challenges of resuming NBA season, playing with no fans

LeBron James, Lakers

LeBron James spoke at length for the first time since the NBA decided to bring the 2019-20 season to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar outlined the potential challenges and roadblocks that would come with resuming the season and potentially playing games without fans.

LeBron was a guest on the Road Trippin’ podcast when he made these comments, with transcription courtesy of ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:

“What is the word ‘sport’ without ‘fan’?” James asked. “There’s no excitement. There’s no crying. There’s no joy. There’s no back-and-forth. There’s no rhyme or reason that you want to go on the road and just dethrone the home team because of their fans and vice versa.

“Like, 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 5-on-5 … 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. But until the fans can come back … I just don’t know how we can imagine a sporting event without fans. It’s just, it’s a weird dynamic.”

The prospect of playing in empty arenas is a very palpable one, considering the contagion that could take place, even if only one spectator was a carrier of COVID-19. Before the hiatus, the Lakers superstar initially bristled at the idea of playing in front of no fans, but then he changed his tune after learning more about the situation.

Road Trippin’ co-host Richard Jefferson suggested teams could be quarantined in a league-selected hotel during the postseason as a way to keep them safe from any remnants of the virus. The Lakers star wasn’t having any of that:

“I ain’t going for that s***,” said James. “I’m not going for that.”

James has always been known for his camaraderie and his endless handshakes, each distinct with every one of his teammates. That could come to an end upon returning to play:

“I ain’t high-fiving nobody for the rest of my life after this s***,” said a joking James. “No more high-fiving. After this corona s***? Wait ’til you see me and my teammates’ handshakes after this s***.”

LeBron also expressed concern about playing against guys who previously positive for the coronavirus, noting it might affect how players approach the game and how hard they play.

The NBA won’t be the same after this pandemic, at least not immediately. James is keenly aware of it, for better or worse.