LeBron James will refuse to play if the Los Angeles Lakers had to stage games behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak the superstar revealed after becoming the third player to reach 34,000 points in NBA history.
The NBA has started to prepare for any eventualities arising from the spread of the virus with an escalation in infections and deaths recorded in the USA.
On Friday, the league asked teams to start preparing for the possibility of playing without fans in attendance.
According to ESPN, the NBA has also asked teams to identify “essential staff” in order to limit attendees.
“Play games without the fans? No, simple answer,” said James after the Lakers’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I ain’t playing if we haven’t got the fans in the crowd, 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.”
The Lakers’ 113-103 victory over the Bucks saw them clinch a spot in the NBA play-offs for the first time since 2013. The Bucks had already clinched a place in the play-offs ahead of the encounter between the teams with the best record in the regular season.
James excelled for the Lakers with 37 points in a compelling match-up with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 32 points for the Bucks.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis also hit 30 points at the Staples Center.
— NBA (@NBA) March 7, 2020
The three-time champion and four-time MVP was already third on the NBA’s all-time list for scoring after leapfrogging Kobe Bryant in January before the Lakers legend tragically died in a helicopter crash.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) still owns the record, ahead of Karl Malone (36,928) and the 35-year-old James.
Entering the Lakers’ clash against the Bucks, James had been averaging 25.4 points, 10.7 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game this season.
The Lakers are top of the Western Conference with a record of 48 wins and 13 losses from 61 games.
The Lakers were swept 4-0 in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs in their last appearance in the play-offs, with the late Kobe Bryant missing the series through injury.
The 16-time NBA champions struggled in the subsequent years, missing the play-offs last year even after three-time champion James joined.
But since acquiring Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer, the Lakers have been one of the most impressive teams in the league this season as they seek to win a first title since 2010.