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How tragedy has impacted the NBA in the past

The Golden State Warriors listen to the national anthem before a game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in San Francisco.

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Two NBA games were postponed following the death of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic last week — the Warriors at Utah Jazz game originally scheduled for Jan. 17 and the Warriors home game vs. Dallas Mavericks scheduled for Jan. 19.

When news of Milojevic’s death broke, I completely understood why the Warriors would need time before getting back to playing. The tragic and sudden nature of events would upend and disrupt anyone’s life.

But that was not the first time that death and tragedy have led to the postponement of NBA games.

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I reached out to the people at the league office, and they provided me with a list of games that have been postponed dating back to 1948 with the caveat that the list might not be complete, especially with dates pre-1986.

With a little bit of digging on my own to add to things, it was interesting to see what kind of circumstances have prevented teams from playing.

There are of course all the games that were postponed over the last few years because of health and safety protocols and not having enough players to field a team due to positive COVID-19 tests, and there are many weather-related postponements throughout the years.

There were also quite a few games that had to be rescheduled because of issues in arenas (fire alarms, water on the court, electrical problems, etc) or mechanical issues with flights or transportation.

But the games that stood out were the ones postponed because of tragedy or circumstances far from normal.

Games scheduled for Nov. 22, 1963, were postponed following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and multiple playoff games were postponed after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Ike Richman, co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, collapsed during a game between his Sixers and the Boston Celtics at the Boston Garden on Dec. 3, 1965, and died on the floor in front of the players and fans. Although the Sixers finished the game that night, the following game was postponed.

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A game in Miami was postponed on Jan. 17, 1989, because of “civil unrest” following the murder of Clement Lloyd at the hands of a Miami police officer. A playoff game between the Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers originally scheduled for April 30, 1992, was postponed when the riots in L.A. broke out after the four officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted by a jury.

A game in Denver was postponed on April 20, 1999, after the school shooting at Columbine High School. Charlotte Hornets guard Bobby Phills died on Jan. 12, 2000, in a car accident and the Hornets game was postponed that night.

On April 16, 2013, a Boston game was postponed due to the Boston Marathon bombing.

On Jan. 28, 2020, a Lakers game was rescheduled after Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died with his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. That game was never rescheduled as the entire 2019-20 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A rose and a T-shirt with the “DM” logo adorn the seat of former Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, who died Jan. 17 in Salt Lake City after suffering a heart attack, before a game between the Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in San Francisco. | Godofredo A. Vásquez, Associated Press
A rose and a T-shirt with the “DM” logo adorn the seat of former Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, who died Jan. 17 in Salt Lake City after suffering a heart attack, before a game between the Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in San Francisco. | Godofredo A. Vásquez, Associated Press

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Up next: 2023-24 regular season

  • Jan. 29 | 5:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Brooklyn Nets | KJZZ

  • Jan. 30 | 5:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ New York Knicks | KJZZ

  • Feb. 1 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Philadelphia 76ers | KJZZ

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