NBA: LeBron James changes stance on potentially playing in empty arena

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James earlier said he would not play in an empty arena. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James backtracked on Tuesday (March 10) on his earlier statement that he would not play in an empty arena if National Basketball Association teams were forced to keep fans out because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Well, it's funny, because when I was asked the question - would you play without no fans? - I had no idea that there was actually a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus," he told reporters.

"Obviously, I would be very disappointed, not having the fans, because that's who I play for. I play for my family. I play for my fans. They're saying no one could come to the game if they decide to go that point.

"So, I'd be disappointed in that. But, at the same time, you've got to listen to the people that's keeping track on what's going on. And if they feel like it's best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we all listen to them."

James, whose Lakers are a Western Conference-best 49-13, had a differing opinion on Friday night in comments after the Lakers' victory over the Milwaukee Bucks when asked about the possibility.

"We play games without the fans? Nah. Impossible," he said. "I ain't playing if you don't have the fans in the crowd. That's who I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans. That's what it's all about. So, if I show up to the arena and there ain't no fans in there? I ain't playing. So, they can do what they want to do."

CNN reported 732 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday, with 26 total deaths. Two of those deaths have come in California, where the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 140 have been afflicted.

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