By Peter Gleason
The official announcement came at 9:31 p.m on March 11, 2020.
“At that point,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo Sports, “I couldn’t have imagined that we were about to shut down NBA as we knew it for essentially the next nine months or so. To me, at least in that moment, it seemed like we would be dealing with a relatively short-term issue.”
The hiatus, instead, lasted 141 days. It set off a “ripple effect,” which Silver sensed, that within 24 hours had shut down every major U.S. sport. The ripple also extended beyond sports. Silver’s decision accelerated the country’s broader pandemic response.
“The NBA was really the first to pull the trigger and say, ‘Economic consequences be damned, we have to put public health above this until we can get a sense of what’s going on,’ ” says Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. “So I think that was a monumental event for the U.S.”
Silver, though, wasn’t thinking so grand.
“I can’t say it felt so global to me,” he says. “I wouldn’t have predicted then that essentially a year later, someone would be interviewing me, and saying, ‘Describe to me what it was like on March 11.’ It didn’t feel it was of that sort of magnitude. I was much more focused, in that moment, on the impact [on] the league that I run. And the tens of thousands of jobs that are dependent on this league. And what was going to happen next.”