(Reuters) – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has said he will not take to the court if the NBA bars fans from attending games to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
American media reported that the NBA had sent a memo to teams on Friday detailing the need for contingency plans in case it becomes necessary to play games with only essential staff present.
Italy, one of the worst-hit countries after China where the outbreak began, is staging matches across different sports without spectators in attendance.
“Play games without the fans? No, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing,” James told reporters after the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 113-103 on Friday to clinch a playoff berth.
“That’s who I play for. I play for my team mates, I play for the fans, that’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do,” added the 35-year-old James, who is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time.
In a memo sent to the league’s 30 teams this week, the NBA said it was closely monitoring the situation and had advised players to fist-bump with fans instead of high-fiving them and avoid taking items to autograph.
About 102,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and more than 3,480 have died from it. The United States has 301 confirmed cases with 14 deaths.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond