On Friday, the NBA circulated a memo urging teams to prepare for the possibility of continuing to play games as scheduled, but without fans watching on the sidelines to protect the general population against the spread of COVID-19. Lakers forward and basketball superstar LeBron James says, "no way."

In an interview with ESPN Sports Center, James responded to the memo with a definitive answer.

"We play games without the fans? Nah, that's impossible. I ain't playing if I ain't got the fans in the crowd. That's who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That's what it's all about. So 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."

In clear defiance against the NBA's memo, James hinted that he is willing to face the consequences the league may impose on him if the suggestion becomes policy. At this point, the league has not announced any empty-arena games, but only issued a memo to prepare for the "possibility."

According to the memo, only the players and essential staff would be allowed to go in the arena banning other people, including the player's family/guests and corporate partners.

The memo also included the possibility of temperature checks on players, staff, referees, and other essential personnel required to play a game. The league said in the same memo that a separate policy is being discussed for members of the sports media.

According to NBA.com, European countries like Denmark, in particular, has already officially announced empty arena games because of the coronavirus. In the USA, NCAA Division III men's basketball played a game at the John Hopkins University in an empty arena.

It's not certain whether a superstar player's stand will sway NBA management to withhold its plan to protect the general public. However, if a superstar like James sticks to his word, it won't be a surprise if other players support and join his boycott. It puts the league in a sticky situation of balancing its financial obligations to media networks, investors, and players, and protecting the general population as a whole.

LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James gestures while playing against the Brooklyn Nets on October 10, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China Photo: AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL Hector Retamal/AFP