Pro Basketball Resumes in China After 5-Month Virus Shutdown


China's professional basketball league returned from its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic this weekend.

The CBA was back in action nearly five months after it was officially halted on January 24 because of the public health crisis.

Game action is closed to spectators and is confined to a small handful of venues, according to the Associated Press, and many fewer foreign-born players are participating than usual because of virus concerns and travel considerations.

One such player from abroad who is still with his team is former NBA reserve Sonny Weems, who was awarded Player of the Week honors, according to Chris Sheridan of Forbes.

Weems returned to China several weeks ago and was quarantined while awaiting word of the resumed season, Sheridan said.

NBA officials will likely be keeping a close eye on developments in the CBA restart. Like the CBA, the NBA is also planning to bar spectators from games when they resume in July, though the NBA opted for a "biosphere" model whereas Chinese teams still have some travel.

It was previously reported that NBA players who are uncomfortable with the parameters of a resumed season in Florida would be allowed to sit out, though they would have to forego their salaries.

Former NBA superstar and No. 1 overall draft pick Yao Ming, now chairman of the CBA, said in an open letter to fans that the return marked an important step in the recovery from the virus.

"As the first national large-scale sports event to be restarted in China, the CBA rematch has a strategic significance for comprehensively promoting the resumption of production and restoring life, and its social impact has exceeded the basketball itself."

China, which is where the virus reportedly originated late in 2019, has largely contained the pandemic since its initial outbreak. But Yao said it's too soon to not be vigilant.

"The epidemic is not over yet, we have to arrange for everyone to live, train and compete under relatively closed conditions," he said. "Neither the empty court nor the tournament system is a rhythm we are familiar with, but the long-lost game is in front of us."

NBA game action is officially slated to resume July 30 in Orlando.