Top Basketball League in Japan Shuts Down Again After “Chaotic” Restart

The league will be shut down at least until April over health concerns

Japan basketball
A general view of the arena prior to during the 2019 B.League final between Chiba Jets and Alvark Tokyo.
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images
By Luis Paez-Pumar / March 22, 2020 12:05 pm

As the United States continues to brace for the worst parts of the coronavirus pandemic, regions around the world that were previously under lock-down are beginning to return to some form of normalcy. Japan was one of the first countries hit by the disease originating from neighboring China, but after a couple of months of fighting the virus, the country felt secure enough in its success to have things like its basketball league return to action.

Except, not really. According to ESPN, a “chaotic” return weekend for Japan’s B.League — the top basketball league in the country — has seen it shut down once again, this time until at least April 1, while the league and its teams figure out how to keep players safe and healthy.

The ESPN report quoted former NBA journeyman and current B.League star Jeff Ayres extensively, following his return to the United States over concerns about his own health and the ability to get back home in time for the birth of his child. Ayres did not mince words about the situation:

I decided not to practice or play due to concern regarding how the league, and my team specifically, was doing to keep players safe. I felt we were putting ourselves at risk. It was a reckless environment. […] My team in particular was not taking any of the measures that were recommended, such as taking players’ temperatures daily, until it was already too late. The league was pressuring players to play in games due to pressure from sponsors, and my team was being dismissive of our concerns.

According to Ayres, his team, the Shiga Lakestars, are now looking to terminate his contract due to a breach of contract, since he left the country in order to return to the United States.

The second shutdown of the B.League is yet another hit for Japan and its sporting scene, after a week that saw several high-profile Olympic officials call for a postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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