NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that his league's status as an influencer helped change how seriously many in the United States are taking the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I recognize that when we went off the air last Wednesday night it was a larger decision than just the NBA," Silver told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Wednesday. "Young people in particular, who are a large part of our audience, who frankly weren't taking all that seriously the (medical) recommendations."
The NBA abruptly postponed its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus while his team was in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder. Within 48 hours, MLB and the NHL had done the same.
"Seemingly, after that Wednesday night, most of the professional leagues followed," Silver said. "By virtue of an NBA player being tested and the kind of attention it brought, my sense was, especially among young people in the United States, people were not taking these protocols all that seriously until the NBA did what it did."
Now one week later, seven NBA players - including Kevin Durant and three fellow Brooklyn Nets - have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Silver credited Gobert's diagnosis for forcing the league to act earlier than it might have otherwise.
"I mean there's a chance we would have been playing for several more days," he said.
Silver also said he wasn't surprised by the Nets' positive tests given the team's location in New York City, which had almost 2,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
While the commissioner doesn't know when his league will resume, he's hoping the NBA will help society return to normal once the crisis ends.
"We were the first to shutter, in what way can we be the first mover to restart the economy?" Silver said. "There's no doubt that shutting down the economy is a public health matter as well ... sometimes out of the worst crisis comes opportunity.
"And one thing I'll say about the United States ... we're an incredible country, and some of the greatest inventions, some of the best innovations, some of the best minds are in this country."