LeBron James Says He Understands Safety Comes First If NBA Plays Without Fans

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

LeBron James has softened his stance on the idea of playing games without fans.

The Los Angeles Lakers star was asked Tuesday about the NBA potentially deciding to play games in empty stadiums out of concern about the coronavirus:

"Obviously I would be very disappointed not having the fans with us...but at the same time, you gotta listen to the people that are keeping track of what's going on," James said. "If they feel like it's best for the safety of the players, safety of the franchise, safety of the league to mandate that, then we all listen to it."

The NBA had circulated a memo Friday preparing teams about the possibility of playing games without fans or media, and James did not take the news well.

"We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible," he said, per Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. "I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do."

The Division III men's basketball NCAA Tournament held games without fans out of concern for COVID-19, while the Ivy League canceled its tournament altogether.

According to CNN, there have been 732 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday, leading to 26 total deaths.

The NBA has been exploring options to keep its fans and players safe, requiring several contingency plans from each team, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.