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 has been suspended since Feb. 29. Officials from all 10 teams met Tuesday morning in Seoul to discuss whether to resume play on March 29 as scheduled, but they 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 its sporting competitions off the ground stands as a dark development for other countries attempting to do the same.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun issued a message to the public this past weekend urging that indoor sports and entertainment facilities, as well as places of worship, be closed for 15 days 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 recently elected to cancel their seasons, which was also seen as a blow to the hopes of the KBL resuming play.
The pan-European VTB United League is the next major basketball league set for a return. It consists of teams from Russia, Poland, Estonia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The 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 the season.
One VTB United League team, BC Kalev/Cramo, said it has withdrawn from the remainder of its season after a member of its coaching staff was diagnosed with COVID-19 following a league game against PBC Lokomotiv Kuban on March 12. Kuban’s staff and roster were forced to self-quarantine after the incident.
Skepticism exists in European basketball circles about whether the VTB United League can resume, considering that teams travel commercially to and around countries considered high-risk pandemic zones.
The Chinese Basketball Association 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 Jr., Antonio Blakeney, Joe Young and others who have returned.