The Lakers will soon begin allowing a reduced number of fans to attend games at Staples Center, the team announced on Friday. They are targeting the April 15 game against the Boston Celtics for the return of fans in the arena. It will be the first time people will be allowed to attend the team’s home games in over a year, since March of 2020.
Here is the Lakers’ official statement:
We are incredibly excited that the State of California announced guidelines today that will allow Lakers fans to return to STAPLES Center.
Now that we have the guidance, we will work with LA County Public Health and STAPLES Center to finalize our plans to have fans safely attend our games starting with the Lakers vs. Celtics game on April 15.
We look forward to welcoming Lakers fans back to STAPLES Center to continue the journey with us to defend our NBA title.
The team has yet to specify how many people it will be allowing in, but Lakers governor Jeanie Buss recently said she couldn’t wait for the return of fans during an interview on ESPN.
“We follow the L.A. County rules and restrictions and we will do everything that they dictate. We want to keep our fans safe. That’s most important,” Buss told Stephen A. Smith. “What I’m hoping for is we have fans in time for the playoffs. That’s really what’s missing. I think that’s been a challenge for our players to stay motivated at home. I think we actually have a better road record than home. It’s tough to play without that feedback, without that energy that the fans bring.”
Los Angeles County recently moved into the orange tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening plan, which is the tier with the second-fewest restrictions of the four-tier plan (for more information on the tier system and how a county moves up and down in it, check out the state’s website).
L.A. had previously only approved reduced attendance for outdoor sporting events, with the Lakers only being allowed to host up to 50 guests at games (not including media and team staff) so this is progress forward for the team, county and city.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and other players have been vocal about how much they’ve missed fans being at games this season, with James himself even getting excited for opposing hecklers in road arenas, so this will surely be a welcome change for them. This will be the first time the Lakers have been around a group of their own fans in any large and official capacity since winning the team’s first championship in 10 years, so it will also be an opportunity for Los Angeles to shower the players who remain from that roster with their (socially distanced) appreciation for the first time.
In additionally delicious note, the team had also previously said that it wouldn’t reveal the banner from their 2020 title until fans could return to the arena, so this may be an opportunity to finally unveil that achievement in the rafters. So they may reveal their 17th banner that tied the Celtics... against the Celtics. Now that’s some shade, if that’s what happens.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more information.