The Staples Center is home to two NBA teams, the Lakers and the Clippers. It is also home to WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings. On any given night, the arena hosts 19,000 people for NBA games and 18,000 for NHL. It is also a venue for other events as needed.

As one of the most significant event venues in Los Angeles, it remained open as late as the second week of March. According to Yahoo Sports, when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in LA county, the Staples Center continued to operate. The venue hosted 39 events, including the memorial service for Kobe Bryant, the Grammy Awards, 12 NHL games, and 19 NBA games.

At least eight athletes who played in those games were diagnosed with COVID-19. Four Brooklyn Nets players, Two Lakers players, and two players for NHL's Ottawa Senators.

Tracing who those eight players had contact with in the last 14 days was a nightmare. The frequent travel and packed schedules of superstar athletes put the numbers of direct contacts in the hundreds of thousands of people in at least two countries.

On March 8, days before the NBA shutdown. The Lakers played against the Clippers. By then, the NBA management has already issued several warning memorandums regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Players are no longer allowed to mingle with fans or do high-fives with each other. The league even told teams to prepare for empty-arena games.

The Staples Center added 85 additional staffers for postgame cleaning, including POS terminals, ATMs, and even telephones in luxury suites. All 48 restrooms were disinfected before and after each game. The Clippers agreed to eliminate the tradition of slapping hands with fans as players runoff from the locker room into the court before tipoff.

Despite these efforts, on March 10, when the Lakers played against the Brooklyn Nets, a sharp spike of cases in the LA country was reported. 20 people in a county of millions seemed insignificant, and people went on as if there's nothing wrong. However, fans noticed something out of place, Staples Center attendants were continuously disinfecting surfaces, especially in restrooms.

Fans with season tickets and other guests were no longer allowed in locker rooms. Essential personnel, including sports media, were mandated to conduct interviews at least six feet away.

A week later, the virus reached NBA locker rooms, and the league suspended all games indefinitely. Subsequent investigations showed that over half of the infected NHL and NBA players got it in the Staples Center despite constant disinfection.

Kobe Bryant memorial
IMAGES Fans gather outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles where a public memorial service for NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant will be held. Photo: AFPTV / Sébastien VUAGNAT