The National Basketball Association’s moment of reckoning came Wednesday when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
Within minutes, the league had suspended its season and the sports world was getting a lesson in the dangers of the coronavirus. At least one other league was mulling the possibility of doing the same.
The moment also made Gobert a significant figure in NBA history, and a person the world will likely learn more about in the coming days. Here’s what we know about the first player in major North American professional sports to contract the coronavirus.
Rudy Gobert’s infamous microphone joke
It might not be the moment he contracted COVID-19, but it will undoubtedly be remembered for decades as a flashpoint in the coronavirus outbreak for the league.
Following a practice on Monday, Gobert reacted to news that the NBA was closing locker rooms to media amid fears of the virus by touching every reporter’s recorder in jest.
The moment is decidedly less humorous now.
Rudy Gobert nearly played the day he tested positive for coronavirus
According to a statement from the Utah Jazz, Gobert — who is unnamed in the statement — had tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection after feeling symptoms.
Those symptoms reportedly diminished over the course of Wednesday, but the decision was still made to test for COVID-19. Gobert tested positive right before tip-off, prompting a scramble to postpone the game despite players and fans being present at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Gobert never stepped foot inside the arena, though there’s no telling how long the virus has been in his system. Jazz and Thunder players were quarantined in response to the Gobert news.
Gobert was reportedly ‘careless’, teammate tests positive
The entire Jazz team was tested for the virus after the game was called off Wednesday night. Those results came in Thursday and teammate Donovan Mitchell came back with a positive test.
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of EPSN, Gobert had been careless in the locker room recently and was touching teammates and their belongings.
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
Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a bad idea during flu season to potentially pass along a sickness to teammates and then to their families.
The entire NBA might be exposed to coronavirus through Gobert
So the incubation period for coronavirus can be up to two weeks before symptoms start presenting.
In the last two weeks, Gobert’s Jazz team has played against the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, with four of those games coming on the road. Most of those teams have already been told to self-quarantine.
Even if you assume the virus has been in Gobert’s system for only five days, that still means the entire league could be at risk.
All 30 NBA teams can be connected in just the last 5 days.— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 12, 2020
The NBA made the right decision to suspend this season. pic.twitter.com/jUy3X5zwTj
It seems probable that Gobert and Mitchell aren’t the only players who have the virus in his system right now. Especially if Gobert was indeed being so careless while unknowingly carrying the virus.
Gobert is reportedly in good spirits
Despite the scary situation, Gobert’s countryman Evan Fournier reported on Twitter that the player is “doing good” after a phone call.
Was just on the phone with Rudy. He is doing good man. Lets not panick everyone. Love you all❤️— Evan Fournier (@EvanFourmizz) March 12, 2020
Gobert was also “feeling good, strong and stable — and was feeling strong enough to play tonight,” before he tested positive, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Rudy Gobert is one of league’s top big men
Seeing Gobert be the player to contract the coronavirus was especially shocking because the Frenchman has been among the top players in the league for years.
A 7-footer with an absolutely freakish wingspan, Gobert is the league’s back-to-back defending Defensive Player of the Year, an All-Star and has almost single-handedly given the Jazz an elite defense. He also set the record for most recorded dunks in a season last year.
Gobert had been averaging 15.1 points, a career-high 13.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game entering Wednesday.
Gobert is not alone as an athlete with coronavirus
Hours before Gobert tested positive, Daniele Rugani, a soccer player on the Italian powerhouse Juventus, also tested positive for the virus.
Given that Italy has been absolutely crushed by COVID-19 to the point that the entire country is on lockdown, it’s not a huge surprise to hear the virus has reached some of its athletes.
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