Just before the scheduled tip-off of last night’s NBA game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, a trainer with the Jazz sprinted onto the floor. He had bad news to share with the referees: Jazz center Rudy Gobert had preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. The officials promptly cancelled the game, and shortly thereafter the NBA suspended the entire season.
This was definitely the right call. The league had earlier in the day committed to playing games in empty arenas, but that measure would do nothing to protect the teammates, coaches, opponents, training staff, arena employees, and media members an infected player would inevitably come into contact with. It’s a historic interruption, but the craziest thing about this story has to be Gobert’s King Oedipus-level hubris.
Just three days ago, Gobert made it a point to touch every microphone on his way out of a post-shootaround press conference, presumably to prove that he was a big, strong boy unafraid of any virus.
— Dave Fox (@Davefox2) March 12, 2020
Unlike Oedipus, Gobert didn’t attempt to defy the gods and the Oracle of Delphi. Unfortunately for him, attempting to defy the CDC and WHO looks like a similarly disastrous error.
In its statement to the press, the Jazz did not identify the infected player by name, but sources tell notoriously plugged-in NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski that it’s Gobert. And while it’s impossible to say definitively that he contracted it during the mic fondling stunt, it’s also impossible to say definitively that he didn’t. If he was infected before the stunt, then he defintiely put the media members who’d put their mics on the table at risk, and that might not even be the worst thing he did!
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN. Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
So not only did Gobert embarrassingly contract the virus he’d publicly mocked, he facilitated its spread to a teammate and forced the NBA to suspend its entire season.
It is true that an interruption to play was likely going to happen anyways, as it would be hard to justify staging any kind of event that requires close physical contact in a country where 70 to 150 million people might soon be infected. Large-scale public gatherings were already being postponed or canceled, and as soon as a player or someone who made regular contact with players contracted the virus the NBA would have been forced to take similarly extreme measures.
Still, Gobert made himself the idiot villain of the entire situation. And while we obviously hope he makes a full recovery, the taunts and boos that await him when and if the NBA resumes play will be richly deserved.