Silver monitored the situation closely, staying in daily contact with league employees in China who were witnessing the devastating spread of the virus firsthand. The NBA’s relationship with China had been strained since the fall, following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong. But Silver believed it was imperative to keep up the connection, having been counseled by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that the future of the world was dependent on the U.S. and China working together on matters of global importance.

Public health crises had come up before around the world in locations with NBA employees, but they hadn’t reached this scale or severity.

The former commissioner’s memorial was on Jan. 21 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and Silver was a featured speaker. On the same day, the U.S. confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in the state of Washington. Two days later, massive quarantines began across China as the country tried to control the spread of the virus.

The NBA began to activate its pandemic protocols from the crisis management guide it distributes internally and to teams every year.