The National Basketball League (NBL) has announced the Perth Wildcats will be crowned champions of the 2019/20 season following the cancellation of the finals series due to the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
The Wildcats were leading the best-of-five series against the Sydney Kings 2-1 when the Kings refused to play on, citing the threat of Coronavirus, after both teams agreed earlier in the week, they were ready and willing to end the series.
NBL owner and executive chairman, Larry Kestelman, said in a statement following the decision he understands and appreciated the Sydney Kings decision to refuse to finish the finals series.
“I want to say how sad we are for what is happening all around the world and how it is affecting so many people in so many different ways,” Kestelman said.
“Our sport is very important to us and our fans, but we have a clear perspective on where we sit in the pecking order of priorities right now.
“When the Coronavirus threat escalated about a week ago, we made a decision to immediately close the doors to the general public for the remainder of the finals’ series.
“This was done to protect the health and well-being of everyone concerned and minimise risk on the advice of the government and medical experts.
“The NBL’s intention has always been to provide advice, guidance and work through a consultative process with the two teams involves as circumstances were, and still are, far from normal.
“On Tuesday we were informed by the Kings that they would not proceed with the rest of the series due to what they felt were increased risks for players and staff, as well as some of the overseas players and coaching staff wishing to return home to their loved ones,” he said.
The decision to crown the Wildcats as the champions for the 2019/20 NBL season has been received graciously by Kings owner and chairman, Paul Smith, who tweeted a statement saying the Kings will not challenge the NBL’s decision to award the Wildcats the championship, despite the Kings finishing the regular season at the top of the ladder.
“I expressed no disappointment to @KestelmanLarry [Larry Kestelman] when he advised me at 2:57pm of the NBL decision,” Smith said.
“The decision is the decision.
“My only emotion is pride in what we did to support our players and the players dignity they have shown themselves, in contrast with others,” he said.
Following the cancellation of the NBL 2019/20 season final series, the NBL has also announced that the 2020 NBL1 season has been cancelled.
The decision follows the indefinite closures of indoor sports centres due to COVID-19.
NBL chief operating officer, Andy Crook, said the decision came in conjunction with Basketball Victoria, Basketball Queensland and Basketball South Australia.
“Obviously this is unfortunate, but it is the most appropriate decision under the current circumstances,” Mr Crook said.
“We also want to allow the clubs to focus on re-establishing grass-roots basketball as a matter of priority when the time is right.
“I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone involved in NBL1, in particular Basketball Victoria, Basketball Queensland, Basketball South Australia and all of our clubs and players.
“We will work with them as we continue to monitor the situation and work towards resuming basketball at a community level at the appropriate time,” he said.
The NBL also announced an agreement with the Australian Basketball Players’ Association to postpone the NBL free agency period until at least May 1.