The professional basketball world has come to a grinding halt as international leagues have almost uniformly elected to follow in the NBA’s footsteps in suspending their seasons due to coronavirus concerns.
Jordi Bertomeu, CEO of the Euroleague, the top league in the world outside the NBA, released a letter to fans Friday morning announcing that games will be suspended “until at least April 11.” Bertomeu, however, said the league remains committed to delivering “an ending to what has been an outstanding season so far.”
The Euroleague had previously announced the suspension of the second-most prestigious pan-European league, the EuroCup, which is also under its umbrella.
FIBA, the sport’s governing body worldwide, announced the suspension of all FIBA competitions starting Friday, which affects its Basketball Champions League and FIBA Europe Cup. The suspension could later include other international competitions on its extensive calendar.
FIBA says it will “continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and will evaluate the options for the continuation or not of the respective competitions when and if the situation allows for it.”
After games were played Thursday in Estonia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Iceland, another slew of leagues elected to cancel or postpone contests.
The first-division leagues in Lithuania, Sweden, Switzerland and Slovakia joined Ukraine in outright canceling the remainder of their seasons, with teams in first place announced as champions.
Only one European league considered among the continent’s highest levels of competition is currently slated to hold games this weekend, as Turkey has yet to postpone any scheduled contests.
The Turkish government announced Thursday that all sporting events until the end of April would be played behind closed doors, something that drew the ire of several Americans, who publicly criticized the decision.
Chicago native Bobby Dixon, who goes by the name Ali Muhammad after gaining citizenship and playing for the Turkish national team, expressed his disappointment in a tweet.
So basically Every basketball league in the world suspended its league but Turkish league refuse to do so? Health is the most important assets we have!! Do the right thing!! The Risk not worth it.
— Bobby Dixon (@BobbyDixon20) March 13, 2020
Former NBA first-round draft pick Shane Larkin, considered the best player in European basketball, expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting that “playing in these games is not worth it.”
Australia conducted Game 2 of its playoff final round Thursday night, as the Sydney Kings defeated the Perth Wildcats on the road 97-83 in a game that was played behind closed doors. At least two games are still scheduled to be played as part of the best-of-five format.
Leagues that have elected to suspend competition include Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Belgium, Finland, Croatia, Greece, Poland, Puerto Rico, Cyprus and Czech Republic.
Pan-European competitions like the Adriatic League (consisting of teams from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia) and the VTB league (consisting of teams from Russia, Poland, Estonia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) are on hiatus until at least April.
In Italy, dozens of Americans have unilaterally elected to return to the U.S. en mass, sometimes with the club’s blessings and sometimes without.
Former NBA player James White tweeted upon return to the U.S. that he “really was just stuck in the house in Italy eating PB&J’s” and added that he was not asked to undergo any extra screenings upon arrival, “which is kinda crazy.”
Cincinnati native David Logan, who played in Treviso, which is currently under quarantine, tweeted, “That money not worth it…better get out in the morning.”
In China, the league continues to prepare for resumption of the season in the first week of April and has summoned American players to return “no later than March 16,” according to a memo acquired by ESPN.
As several players ESPN has communicated with have expressed reluctance to leave home due to safety concerns, individual teams have responded with increasingly hostile tones. One memo, which was acquired by ESPN and sent to a number of player representatives, threatened “lifetime bans for players who do not return by March 15,” and loss of league agency licenses “for 2-3 seasons if they cannot force represented players to return to CBA.”
In an email reviewed by ESPN, a CBA team pointed out that at least four Americans have either returned to their respective teams or never left China at all. A source told ESPN the league is expected to bring all 20 teams to one or two cities to complete the regular season behind closed doors and then immediately conduct the playoffs.