• "If I show up to an arena and there ain't no fans in there, I ain't playing," James told reporters hours after the NBA released a memo saying it was considering mandating that attendees for the games could be limited to only "essential staff."
  • The NBA's move comes as countries including Italy, Japan, and South Korea have canceled major sporting events or athletes have played to empty venues.
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Lebron James pushed back against the National Basketball Association's (NBA) newest proposal that could bar fans from attending games in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

The organization released a memo on Friday to all of its 30 teams that they were weighing the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, which James flatly rejected when speaking to reporters Friday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"We play games without the fans?" James asked a reporter who described the memo. "That's impossible. I ain't playing if I ain't got the fans in the crowd. That's who I play for."

James added: "If I show up to an arena and there ain't no fans in there, I ain't playing. They can do what they want to do."

The memo, which was obtained by The Athletic and ESPN, said that attendees for the games would be limited to only " essential staff ," which would also ban members of the media and most arena employees.

James wasn't the first athlete to push back on the suggestion, as Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics said it "would be terrible " to play for no fans.

As of Friday , the virus had infected more than 100,000 people worldwide. There were at least 239 cases and 15 deaths identified in the United States.

The NBA's proposal came as countries including Italy, Japan, and South Korea , where sporting events have been canceled or games have been played in empty venues , are responding to the spreading outbreak.

The International Olympic Committee has been closely monitoring the virus spread ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which could still be canceled .

The NBA said in a memo released earlier this week that it recommends players use fist-bumps instead of high-fives when greeting fans, and not to take pens, basketballs, or jerseys to sign autographs.

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