LOS ANGELES: LeBron James says the abrupt shutdown of the NBA season due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has left the Los Angeles Lakers feeling like they still have something to prove. The Lakers were in the midst of a revival season, having made the playoffs for the first time in seven years, when the league suspended the 2019-20 season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
At the time of the postponement, the Lakers were in first place in the Western Conference and had the second-best record in the league behind Milwaukee. If the season doesn't resume, James says there will be a void. "Closure? No. But to be proud of what we were able to accomplish to this point, I'll be able to look back and say we did something special in that small period of time," James said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"Just the ups and downs not only on the floor but off the floor everything that we've had to endure as Laker faithful." James said he's having trouble coming to grips with the scale of the pandemic, which has so far killed more than 14,700 people in the US, including almost 200 in his home state of Ohio. "How do you assess what's going on over the last three weeks or however long this pandemic has been going on? It's unnatural," James said. "It's something that's never happened before. Some of you guys are older than me, probably never seen this happen before. You just kind of take all the information you have on a day-to-day basis."
He has been spending his self-isolating time practicing basketball with his son Bronny and talking on the phone with teammates and Lakers coach Frank Vogel. "I got a couple friends that have their own indoor facilities," James said of his training sessions with his son. "They strip it down, wipe it down. It's pretty much me in there along with my son. It's just us." He wants to return to basketball but says it will be up to the experts to decide when. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week he doesn't expect a decision on whether they can salvage the season until at least May.
"Once they allow us to resume some type of activity, I would love to get things back going," James said. "If it's Las Vegas or somewhere else that can hold us and keep us in the best possible chance to be safe, not only on the floor but off the floor as well. Those conversations will be had." Meanwhile, China's Supreme Court has ruled in favour of basketball legend Michael Jordan in a long-running trademark dispute, ending an eight-year legal battle with a Chinese sportswear firm that illegally used his name.
Upholding intellectual property rights is one of the core disputes of the US-China trade war, and a phase one deal signed in January saw Beijing pledge to improve protections of intellectual property. The landmark ruling, made late last month, prohibits the Fujian-based Qiaodan Sports from using the Chinese translation of Jordan's name, Qiao Dan. The retired Chicago Bulls player and six-time NBA championship winner has a huge following in China, a country that has legions of avid basketball fans.
The Supreme Court decision overturns two previous verdicts in favour of the Chinese firm. However, it still allows the firm to continue using its logo of a silhouetted basketball player -- which has similarities with the "Jumpman" logo used by Nike to promote its "Air Jordan" line of sports shoes. However the Supreme Court referred the case over the use of the logo for retrial by the State Intellectual Property Office. In 2016, Jordan won the right to his name in Chinese characters, but the Supreme Court upheld the firm's right to use its trademark "Qiaodan" in Romanised English.
Qiaodan Sports said in a Weibo statement Tuesday that the ruling "would not impact the normal use of [its] existing trademarks, nor would it affect normal business operations." Founded in 2000, the sportswear franchise operates more than 5,700 stores nationwide. It has also applied for nearly 200 similarly named trademarks including different Chinese spellings of "Qiaodan", "Flying Power" and "Qiaodan King", according to the verdict. In 2017, the sportswear brand New Balance was awarded $1.5 million in copyright damages by a Chinese court over its famous "N" logo, which was illegally copied by a local sports shoe firm.
The verdict -- a rare victory for a Western brand in a Chinese intellectual property infringement case -- was announced shortly after US President Donald Trump launched a sweeping investigation into China's record on intellectual property. The UN said this week that China became the world leader in international patent filings last year, unseating the United States which had held the top spot for more than four decades. - AFP