The NBA, like the rest of the world, is a long way from figuring out exactly what it will look like in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s talk that when the league does return to action, it will do so cautiously and without fans in arenas. LeBron James is not excited about this idea.
He made his feelings clear in a conversation with Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Allie Clifton on the “Road Trippin’” podcast released Thursday.
“What is the word 'sport' without 'fan'?" James said, per ESPN. "There's no excitement. There's no crying. There's no joy. There's no back-and-forth. ...
“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.”
James’ evolving take on playing without fans
This isn’t the first time James has addressed playing in empty arenas. James scoffed at the idea in the early stages of the U.S. pandemic before the reality of the coronavirus set in.
LeBron James on possibility of NBA playing games behind closed doors because of coronavirus. LeBron: “I ain’t playing” if there are no fans pic.twitter.com/kpHg6bsFYO
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) March 7, 2020
“We play games without the fans? Nah. Impossible,” James told reporters on March 7. “I ain’t playing if you don’t have the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans.”
Three days and a lot of coronavirus news later, James changed his stance.
“I’d be disappointed in that,’ James told reporters on March 10 of playing without fans. “At the same time, you gotta listen to the people that’s keeping a track on what’s going on. If they feel it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we’ll all listen to them.”
James open to creative ways to play
Now James is itching to get back on the court and open to creative ways to play as non-essential activities in the United States have ground to a halt. But even in that situation, James laments the idea of doing it without fans.
"So to get back on the floor, I would love it,” James said on “Road Trippin’”. ... “Let's just go to each other's practice facility, put out a camera, just scrimmage and livestream it. ...
“I just don't know how we can imagine a sporting event without fans. It's just, it's a weird dynamic.”
James also said he’s not on board with jumping straight to the playoffs without finishing the regular season, even though the Los Angeles Lakers are in position for the No. 1 seed in the West.
He’s also done with high-fives.
“I ain't high-fiving nobody for the rest of my life after this s---. No more high-fiving. After this corona s---? Wait 'til you see me and my teammates' handshakes after this s---.”
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