Imagining the NBA’s New Reality: A Return to Play Without Fans

The lack of a crowd may also have an effect on communication between players during games. Players talk all the time on the court. In an empty arena, their voices will carry.

Will some of the league’s most notorious on-court trash-talkers (say, Patrick Beverley or Draymond Green) have to be conscious of their language if what they say may be heard on a TV broadcast that the league will want to keep family-friendly? And will that take away some of their psychological advantages?

“I talk a lot on defense,” Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo says. “If my teammates can hear me when I’m talking with fans in the building, how is that going to sound in an empty arena?”

The aesthetic concerns of a high-level NBA playoff game without the crowd are ultimately secondary to the health and safety factors that will play into the decision that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the players’ union must make in the coming weeks. Fan-free basketball is better than no basketball at all, as strange as it’s going to be. And it’s going to be strange.