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Impact of COVID-19 sinks in for Milwaukee Bucks fans after NBA suspends remainder of season

The basketball world was in shock on March 11 after the NBA announced it was suspending the season as the coronavirus outbreak tightened its grip on the United States.

The Milwaukee Bucks responded after the NBA confirmed its season has been suspended after a player has tested positive on March 11 for coronavirus.

“Like everyone, we were just made aware that the league is suspending its season,” said Barry Baum, Chief Communications Officer of Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum. “This is a fluid situation so we will have more information as soon as possible for our fans who have tickets to upcoming games. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

The first rumors of the move came after extraordinary scenes as the Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the Utah Jazz. The teams were on court and ready to tip off when the officials huddled in conversation and the players were told to go to the locker rooms. It later emerged one of Utah’s players had tested positive for coronavirus shortly before the start of the game.

“A player on the Utah Jazz preliminary tested positive for COVID-19,” the NBA said in a statement. “The test result was reported shortly before the game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, the game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.”

The league then confirmed the season had been suspended while it considered how to deal with the pandemic.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Jazz and Thunder players were quarantined at the arena. Players from teams who have played the Jazz in the last 10 days – the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors – have also been told to self-quarantine, according to ESPN.

The NBA is one of the world’s most valuable sports leagues in the world. In 2017, the league brought in $7.4bn in revenue. It also has a younger, more diverse fanbase than its rival leagues in North America.

The teams have roughly 20% of their 82-game regular seasons remaining, with the playoffs due to start on 18 April and the finals, which draw in tens of millions of TV viewers around the world, scheduled for June. Early frontrunners for the title had included LeBron James’s Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks.

The league was plunged into mourning in January after one of the NBA’s all-time great players, Kobe Bryant, was killed in a helicopter crash. It had also lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue after China, one of the league’s biggest overseas markets, had blacked out some games after one NBA team executive tweeted support for the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The news came after the governing body of college sports, the NCAA, announced that its season-ending tournament would be played without fans in attendance. The NBA has played two shortened seasons in the past due to disputes over pay and conditions. Both the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons started late due to lockouts.

Tom Lutz

Lee Matz and Gаry Dіnееn/NBАЕ

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