Magic Johnson hopeful NBA can crown a champion despite virus crisis

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Magic Johnson said if the NBA does resume this season it will be without fans and the players shouldn’t have any trouble adjusting on the fly to playing in empty stadiums.

The former NBA star and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team sees a glimmer of hope and said all it will take is one game for the players to adapt to not having spectators in the building.

“Let’s say the NBA comes back without fans. Once you play one game without fans you will adjust to not having fans there,” Johnson told CNN on Thursday night.

“We’ve all played our whole life on the playgrounds and pickup games without fans being there. So basketball players will adjust, trust me.”

Johnson, who is also the former president of the Los Angeles Lakers, said when professional sports returns it will help the country heal after the virus.

The pandemic has so far killed over 95,000 people worldwide, including at least 16,000 Americans and over 500 in Canada.

“We need sports, especially in a time like this. But only if everybody is safe,” Johnson told CNN. “Sports will come back, probably without the fans first.”

The 60-year-old made sports health news in 1991 when he revealed he has HIV.

He said the NBA is not going to return until the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States (US) has stabilised and the players can be properly tested. “There will be a right time,” he said. “Commissioner Adam Silver has done wonderful job with the NBA.

“He wants to make sure the players are safe before they come back. I think sports will come back. It is just a matter of when will we make sure this virus is level, and not affecting the whole country anymore. When those numbers drop and stabilize, sports will come back.”

Johnson said he does not know exactly when that will be, and that Major League Baseball is discussing a May start.

But some health experts have predicted social distancing restrictions might remain in place for much longer over fears of worsening the health crisis.