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Seven Long Days

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The NBA has been paused

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

One week ago, the NBA was a bustling league in which games were being played as teams race to the end of the season. The emergence of the coronavirus has caused teams to close their arenas to fans but the league continued unbowed, the regular season would continue. Eventually, the NBA’s position was rendered untenable, the positive coronavirus test for Rudy Gobert meant that the games had to be suspended for the foreseeable future. For the first time in a long time, the first in my memory there is no basketball being played by anyone. There is almost no competitive sports being played world-wide, very few sports league have continued as normal. The last seven days has been totally different to the seven days before the threat of coronavirus took full effect.

It seems like a strange thing to say but I remember exactly where I was when the news filtered out. The game against the Utah Jazz was highly anticipated by a lot of Thunder fans due to the fact Oklahoma City could move up to the fourth seed with a victory at home. It was a game which I had not planned on watching live but Liverpool’s loss earlier in the night to Atletico Madrid left me searching for some kind of victory from a team that I support. I opened my MacBook ready to log into League Pass and watch basketball into the early hours of the morning, Michael Cage’s church league stories and Chris Paul’s brilliant play would keep me company. My phone blew up with notifications, Twitter, The Athletic and BBC News all said the same thing. The league was suspended and basketball was done for now. I did not believe the news which I read with my own eyes, it felt surreal to consider sports without basketball being played. I logged into League Pass in order to confirm the reality, there was no game coverage, it was just a blank message stating the league was suspended.

There have been few moments in the twenty years which I have been on this Earth where I remember exactly where I was when something happened. The passing of Kobe Bryant was one of those moments as was my beloved Liverpool Football Club falling short of the title on the last day on the Premier League season in 2008-09. In the immediate aftermath, I sat up in my bed and began scrolling through Twitter in an attempt to understand why the game was postponed and all of the immediate reaction. Royce Young of ESPN, Maddie Lee of the Oklahoman and Erik Horne of The Athletic covered the suspension in pain-staking detail as they made sense of the chain of events. The work of the local beat writers deserves a lot of credit for reporting information accurately and in a timely manner, their work was extremely valuable in reducing anxiety and uncertainty for fans worldwide.

The suspension of the league was a teaching moment for myself, I realised that COVID-19 was hugely serious and nobody could afford to be cavalier about the virus. This virus spreads unknowingly, you can be asymptomatic like Donovan Mitchell and continue with your everyday life without realising the sheer number of people that you come into contact with on a daily basis, all of these people could contract coronavirus. The suspension of the league did not immediately pose any pressing concerns but my thoughts drifted to basketball the next morning.

It was the sheer realisation that there would be no basketball to talk about which was striking. The NBA over the last few years has become a twelve month league with free agency and the draft having as much importance as the regular season. There has not been a total pause like this since the lock-out in 2011 and even then games were still being played. Players organised their own teams and played exhibition games for charities. It has been a dead stop for the league and also sports media, it is one of the reasons why the NFL’s CBA discussions and free agency has been so widely covered, there is no live sports content available.

I appreciate that this has been a rambling piece in which I written over seven hundred words about an event that happened just seven days ago but I feel like it needed to be written. Sports is a large part of my life, it is something that I watch, it is something that I read about and it is something that I write about. The sudden stop of a thing that I love has been surreal to say the least. All I can say about the coronavirus spreading across the world is that the virus must be respected and suitable precautions need to be taken. Please listen to your local health bodies and take their advice. The sooner that the coronavirus can be stopped, the sooner we can all get back to watching the Thunder win games.