South Korean basketball won’t restart season, casting pall on other leagues


South Korea’s basketball league, the KBL, has elected to cancel the remainder of its season due to safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, a source told ESPN.

The KBL had been suspended since February 29. Officials from all 10 teams met Tuesday morning in Seoul to discuss whether to resume play March 29 as scheduled, but ultimately elected to abandon that plan, the source said.

South Korea has drawn worldwide praise for its success in containing the virus, but its inability to get it’s sporting competitions off the ground stands as a discouraging development for other countries attempting to do the same.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyu issued a message to the public this past weekend urging that indoor sports and entertainment facilities be closed for 15 days, as well as places of worship, in order to avoid people congregating in crowded spaces — something that put pressure on the KBL, the source said.

The Korean volleyball and women’s basketball leagues all elected to cancel their seasons recently, which was also seen as a blow to the hopes of the KBL resuming play.

The pan-European VTB league stands as the next major basketball league set for a return. It consists of teams from Russia, Poland, Estonia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The VTB league said it will return April 10, and many of its teams, particularly those from Russia, have been conducting full practices in preparation for a resumption of its season.

One VTB League team, BC Kalev/Cramo, said it has withdrawn from the remainder of its season iafter a member of its coaching staff was diagnosed with COVID-19 following its VTB League game against Lokomotiv Kuban on March 12. Kuban’s staff and roster was forced to self-quarantine after the incident.

Skepticism exists in European basketball circles about whether the VTB League can resume considering teams travel commercially to and around countries considered high-risk pandemic zones.

The Chinese CBA is tentatively slated to resume play on April 15. One of its biggest stars, longtime NBA player Lance Stephenson, is the latest American to return to his team, a source told ESPN.

He follows Jeremy Lin, Ty Lawson, Donatas Motiejunas, Sonny Weems, Ekpe Udoh, Marshon Brooks, Jared Cunningham, Pooh Jeter, Kyle Fogg, Ray McCallum, Antonio Blakeney, Joe Young and others who have returned.


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