The NBA suspended their season “until further notice” after a player tested positive for the killer coronavirus.
The league’s shocking move came after French Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, which has killed at least 37 people in the US.
Tests were carried out on players shortly before tip-off between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, which was eventually cancelled.
Players from both teams are currently quarantined inside the Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena as US cases of the killer virus top 1,200 as of March 11.
Reports indicate athletes on the Cavaliers, Knicks, Celtics, Pistons & Raptors are now being told to self-quarantine as they were the last five teams to take on the Jazz.
After one was diagnosed after a preliminary test, the league moved to suspend all games until deciding on their next course of action.
Players were on the floor for warmups and tip-off was moments away when they were told to return to their locker rooms.
Fans were told the game was postponed due to unforeseen circumstances about 30 minutes later amid the ongoing coronavirus fears.
In a brief statement, the league said: “The NBA is suspending gameplay 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.”
The Jazz also released a statement saying a player – they did not identify Gobert – tested negative for flu, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection.
The player’s symptoms reportedly diminished as the day went along, but the decision was made to test for COVID-19 anyway – and it came back with a preliminary positive result.
“The individual is currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City,” the team’s statement read, adding that updates would follow.
For those involved in the popular league, the measures were drastic but necessary given the confirmed case.
“It’s a very serious time right now,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think the league moved appropriately and prudently and we’ll all just have to monitor the situation and see where it goes from here.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors announced that their game against the Brooklyn Nets would be played behind closed doors.
The city of San Francisco had put in place a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
The NBA took decisive action hours after Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told a Congressional committee the NBA shouldn’t allow fans at games.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds,” Fauci said. “If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it.
“But as a public health official, anything that has crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.”
After news of the deadly disease broke, Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego said “these are scary times” before his team’s game in Miami.
“This is surreal,” Borrego said, after the focus on crowds and containment intensified for players.
“This is a reality for us now. It’s no longer just on TV somewhere. This is now home.”
The sporting world has been rocked by the virus in the last 48 hours, with numerous games being played behind closed doors and other matches and events being suspended.
The virus has now officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Trump has banned flights to and from 26 European countries.
As the NBA suspends its season, travellers may have to make other plans as of 12 am on Friday when the travel ban is put into effect.