In Reno, NBA Commissioner Silver talks about handling the early days of the pandemic
In early March 2020, Adam Silver knew a problem was looming, but like much of the rest of the country, he believed the coronavirus pandemic would be limited and basketball would resume business as usual in a few weeks.
Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, reflected on these days and various topics, as one of the speakers at the annual Alliance Chamber of Commerce of Reno + Sparks event, the “Business of Sports” , held Wednesday at the Reno-Sparks Convention. Center.
The topic was business, but Silver spent a lot of time discussing how the NBA handled the pandemic.
Silver and the NBA were at the forefront of the pandemic as the league first postponed its season to March 2020, then canceled the remainder of the season.
He thought the coronavirus would be like other previous viral alerts that never materialized here.
“There was SARS and H1N1 and these other viruses that people had heard about in China, but no one thought it was going to make it to the United States,” Silver said.
Silver, a New York City resident, said one of his first clues that COVID-19 was more serious than the others was that the city’s Chinatown neighborhood was empty as residents learned of the existence. of the virus from relatives in China.
Silver asked Dr David Ho, who had helped Magic Johnson when he was diagnosed with HIV, if he could help the NBA deal with the coronavirus.
Ho agreed to help and one of his first suggestions was to test all the players. The first nine players tested were negative, but Rudy Gobert with the Utah Jazz then tested positive.
That day, his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates and players, whom the Jazz faced, had to wait in their locker rooms for hours for test results to return as COVID testing was not yet widely available.
The NBA ended its 2019-20 season on March 11.
Silver said he was in constant communication with other sports executives during the early days of the pandemic, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“When we shut down our league, no health official told us we had to shut down our business,” Silver said. “But we decided to take a break.”
Playing the 2020-21 season in a “bubble” at Disney World in Florida was a huge undertaking, Silver said, as not only NBA players had to be sequestered, but all of the Disney support workers who continued to help. to maintain the season had to be tested daily.
“It was absolutely the right decision for our business at the time,” said Silver.
Vegas Golden Knights President and COO Kerry Bubolz also spoke at Wednesday’s event and gave a forceful presentation.
Bubolz explained to the audience how the Golden Knights surprised many national media pundits with their early success, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. But he added that the team had a plan and were sticking to it, despite numerous negative comments, some of which he proudly posted on a video board, including comments that hockey should be played in the wilderness. and that the name was stupid.
Sport has a huge economic impact on communities, he said, adding that Las Vegas is fast becoming a capital of sports entertainment.
Wednesday’s event was suitable for professionals and students, and around 200 people were in attendance.
Bubolz said there are many more jobs in the sport than athletes playing the games.
He cited engineering, real estate, marketing, journalism and digital technology as some of the aspects of sports employment that people can aspire to.
Bubolz said that sports are a 100 billion dollar industry in the United States and said that Las Vegas is no longer just an entertainment capital of the world, but is now a sports and entertainment capital.
He cited the Golden Knights and their minor league affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, as well as the Las Vegas Raiders, NASCAR and UNLV as leading the boom in the sport in southern Nevada.
Bubolz spoke of a recent weekend in Las Vegas where the Golden Knights, Las Vegas Raiders, a major pro boxing card and a NASCAR race all took place on the same weekend. Then the following week, in a similar situation, the Knights, Raiders and National Finals Rodeo all took place in Las Vegas in one day.
Bubolz released a few videos showing the Golden Knights pre-game festivities and included the video the team planned to use later Wednesday night for their game against the Dallas Stars.
The videos, which are different for every home game the Golden Knights play, are an important aspect of the team’s marketing and add to the excitement the Knights have generated in Las Vegas, he said.
To date, every Golden Knights home game has an attendance of 103.5% of capacity, which means standing only at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Bubolz gave away four free game tickets to the first three people in the audience who asked a question, and dozens of people literally jumped out of their seats on the occasion.
Bubolz said he almost made a big mistake when a bill for $ 450,000 for jerseys for all season ticket holders fell on his desk. keep them away.
He said he now sees Golden Knights jerseys everywhere he goes in town and the distribution of the jerseys has turned out to be a fantastic idea.
Nevada College of Business Business School Dean Greg Mosier also spoke about the universities athletic business development program.
Former Nevada athletic director Cary Groth, who runs the school’s athletic management program, was in the audience with seven of the graduate students.
Charles Harris, CEO of Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, spoke briefly, and Adam Silver’s older sister, Ann Silver, CEO of Reno + Sparks Chamber, introduced her brother.