Europe’s top basketball league canceled the remainder of its season Monday because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying health concerns had to be paramount despite numerous attempts to find ways to resume play.
The EuroLeague, which is composed of 18 teams across 10 European nations, had been suspended since March 12. League officials said they “explored every possible option” in trying to find a way to resume the season.
“Without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we have had to take in our 20-year history,” Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu said. “Due to reasons beyond our control, we have been forced to cut short the most successful and exciting season in European basketball history.”
The news came only two days after the NBA announced it, along with the National Basketball Players Association, has entered discussions with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July.
Sports calendars around the globe have been ravaged since March because of the pandemic, with about 5.5 million people worldwide having been confirmed to have the coronavirus — and roughly 350,000 of those dying because of it, according to data culled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The EuroLeague is generally considered the second-best basketball league in the world behind the NBA. Former University of Miami star Shane Larkin was the top scorer in the league this season, averaging 22.2 points per game for the Istanbul-based club Anadolu Efes.
Larkin made clear in an Instagram post that he didn’t feel it was prudent for the EuroLeague season to continue.
“It is no secret that since postponing the season players haven’t had the ability to remain in top level shape,” Larkin wrote. “On top of the risk factor of possibly contracting the virus, the possibility of injuries are extremely high.
“Every team deserves and equal opportunity to win the EuroLeague but because of this pandemic many teams and players don’t have the chance to be as prepared as others,” he added. “I don’t think the EuroLeague champions should be decided by who has the ability to train and who doesn’t.”
Larkin’s team led the league with a 24-4 record this season but will not be recognized as champions, with that trophy simply not being awarded this season.
The EuroLeague, which is basketball’s equivalent of a Champions League in soccer with the top teams from various nations qualifying to take part, is planning to have all 18 teams from this season in the league again next season. Plans call for longer-than-usual training camps later this year “to allow players to recover their physical and mental shape in time for the new season,” the league said.
EuroLeague officials plan to start the 2020-21 season on Oct. 1.
“All the league’s stakeholders maintained their determination and exhausted every possible avenue in trying to deliver a complete and uniquely special season to our fans, whose passion is the driving force for all our efforts,” Bertomeu said. “That is our commitment and our passion every single season, and so falling short due to forces beyond anyone’s control is what saddens us most.”