The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning towards playing games without fans in arenas.
The test result was reported shortly before Jazz were due to play Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The league said the affected player, reportedly Jazz centre Rudy Gobert, was not in the arena.
Before leaving a post-practice interview session, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table as a joke.
Players from teams that Jazz has played in the past 10 days were told to self-quarantine, ESPN reported, citing sources.
More than 118,000 people have been infected globally by the virus. More than 4,600 have died.
In the United States, about 1,280 cases have been confirmed, with 38 deaths.
The pandemic rocked the North American sports calendar on Wednesday, leading to the cancellation of the figure-skating world championships and the announcement that college basketball’s annual “March Madness” tournament would take place without fans in attendance.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said his team were “stunned”.
“This is a very serious time right now. I think the league moved appropriately and prudently,” he said.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the situation was “crazy”.
“This can’t be true,” he told ESPN as his team played the Denver Nuggets. “This is not in the realm of possibilities. This seems more like out of a movie than reality.”
A game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings was also called off at the last minute, leading to tears from at least one young fan in attendance.
The NBA playoffs were scheduled to tip off on April 18 with the finals set to begin on June 4.
Following the NBA’s announcement, the National Hockey League said it was consulting with medical experts and would have a further update on Thursday.