NBL Showdown: Coronavirus scare that threatened national basketball league

NBL Showdown general manager Justin Nelson has revealed how close the competition came to COVID-19 disruption last month.

Nelson has told Newshub the revamped national basketball league almost became a victim of the pandemic, when a returning traveller escaped from isolation in Auckland and went shopping at a nearby inner-city supermarket.

Four Canterbury Rams players were believed to be in the shop at the same time, raising alarms among competition organisers.

"We had to follow protocols," says Nelson. "We had put them in place, we certainly didn't expect anything to happen, but it did, and we reacted and got on top of it straight away.

"That was back in week two of the competition - the heart started fluttering a little bit."

After coronavirus shut down sport around the world, the NBL was expected to follow suit, until Nelson and his board concocted a modified competition that included an innovative player draft, based over six weeks at Auckland's Waitakere Trusts Stadium.

But just days into the event, it faced a test of its preparedness that - thankfully - it passed.

"My biggest fear was that something would detail the games and what we've put on and what we're doing here. We had to follow protocols, we did that and everybody was fantastic.

"When you consider what's going on around the world, look at these people enjoying their basketball. It's been a huge six weeks."

NBL organisers were assured the players were safe to continue playing without disruption to the schedule and the Rams eventually reached the semi-finals, before bowing out to Otago Nuggets.

Otago and Manawatu Jets have progressed through to the NBL Showdown final on Saturday evening.