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Rudy Gobert, Covid, and the historic NBA shutdown one year later

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A look back at one of the craziest moments in NBA history

Utah Jazz v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Today marks the one year anniversary of one of the most bizarre nights in NBA history. March 11, 2020 was a day that not just NBA fans, but all human beings will remember forever. Most of you can probably remember where you were, or what you were doing when it all went down. For me, it was just a normal day. I had gotten home from work and was excited to watch the Jazz take on the Thunder in OKC. I saw on my phone that Rudy Gobert was a late scratch just before tipoff due to illness. I do remember thinking about COVID, but not seriously like it could actually infect a professional athlete. Boy, was I wrong. I tuned into the broadcast a little late, and found it strange that the game still hadn’t started. I hopped on Twitter to see what was going on, and that’s when it all started to go down. The incredible Jazz beat writers were doing their thing, getting all the details they possibly could, which at that point weren’t really amounting to anything. Then the PA announcer came on at Chesapeake Energy Arena and the NBA started it’s tilt.

Watching this video is still just so weird to me. Nobody knows what is going on. The refs, the coaches, the players, the arena workers, the fans, absolutely nobody. You can tell even the team doctors or officials that are relaying information to the court are panicked and experiencing some emotional turbulence. As soon as this game got postponed, I knew something crazy was about to happen.

This sent the NBA world in a frenzy of speculation. At this point, Rudy’s “illness” was becoming the focal point of reasoning for the suspended game. “Was it precautionary? Does he have the virus? What the hell is going on???” These were the main vibes from the people of Jazz twitter.

It didn’t take long before Shams Charania did his thing, and got the scoop that would change not just the sports world, but the world as whole.

I remember getting this notification on my phone, and the immediate horror that went through my body. Up until this point in time, I hadn’t really given Covid-19 any weight of impacting my life. As soon as I saw this notification that Rudy had tested positive, that changed. I was scared for Rudy. I was worried for him and his health, both physical and mental. I had no idea what Rudy was about to go through in both of those aspects, and it scared me.

Just a little bit later, Woj dropped one of the most unique “WojBombs” of all-time.

After this tweet, things got crazy on Twitter. The video of Rudy touching the microphones days earlier starting circulating the internet like wildfire. That night and the days following, I think that was the craziest I had ever seen Twitter get. After reading through some death threats and other just horrible things people were saying to Gobert, I felt the need to take the night off the internet, but I couldn’t. I needed to know what was going on with the rest of team, the NBA, and the World. I’ll never forget that night. Scrolling endlessly though Twitter, getting this insane mix of historic news and really emotional words from everybody in the NBA world. There was so much that went on that night that we might not ever know. In a piece published on The Ringer today, Bryan Curtis dove into what this night was like for the Jazz beat writers. This was an incredibly written and interesting read, to see how this night went down for some of the people closest to the situation.

At 8:27 p.m. CT, The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the news that Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, a scoop some of the Jazz writers confirmed. At 8:31 p.m., ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the season had been suspended.

In that four-minute span, the Jazz writers were handed a huge assignment. They also got the news that they might be in danger. “There’s that excitement that something big is happening,” said Todd. “And then there’s the depth of fear when we find out exactly what’s happening.”

It was strange territory for a sportswriter. Each dealt with it in their own way. Jones has a stoicism he acquired while writing high school sports for a decade. “If you can cover preps and write a football gamer in 15 minutes in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, you can do anything,” he said. Jones filed a story for The Athletic from a folding table near the loading bay.

It got even crazier the next morning when Donovan Mitchell also tested positive. These events started a really dark timeline for the Jazz, but more importantly a really rough time for the world and human beings in general. Sporting events started getting cancelled left and right, and more people started taking COVID-19 like the infectious deadly disease that it was.

On March 11, 2020 I didn’t really know where the NBA, the Jazz, and our own lives were headed. Fast-forward (or should I say slow-forward?) to a year later, and we’re here. COVID is still a serious threat, but with a vaccine developed and being administered to millions, we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. The NBA has resumed play, the Jazz have the best record in the NBA, and just sent three players to the All-Star game. The economy has started it’s recovery one of the worst recessions in history, and the US Government just passed a historic relief package to send aid to Americans everywhere. A LOT has happened in a year. Some people have gone through so much.

Looking at this situation a year later, I can’t help but be so impressed with Rudy Gobert, and how he’s handled everything. Nobody will ever know what he went through, being the NBA’s “patient zero” and having a target the size of the Eifel Tower placed on this back. He was treated poorly but something he really couldn’t control, and at that point no one had really even taken seriously. He owned up to his stupid mistake of touching the mics, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief efforts, went out of his way to raise awareness for COVID-19 while he was still dealing with symptoms, did his best to mend ties with Donovan Mitchell and other teammates, chose to stay in Utah signing a contract extension, and came back better than ever. He made his second all-star game, is the leading candidate for DPOY, and a huge reason why the Jazz are currently the NBA’s best team at the half-way point. I don’t think we really appreciate how much mental strength it takes to come back from what Rudy went through, just 365 days ago.

NY Times Marc Stein did an awesome job in a piece published this morning, highlighting Rudy Gobert and his ability to come back from the depths of what he went through a year ago.

“It was definitely a tough year, not just for me, but for everyone,” Gobert said. “A lot of things happened. A lot of unexpected things happened. But I believe that every tough moment is a learning experience. I think the most important thing is to try to make positive out of the negative, and hopefully that’s what I’ve been able to do.”

I’m proud of Rudy for doing what he’s done. It takes a lot of humility to admit mistakes, especially when it’s on a video circulating every device in the entire world. The way he’s handled himself and grown he last year is very admirable.

When I think about Covid-19 for the remainder of my life, I’ll always think of March 11, 2020, the Utah Jazz, and Rudy Gobert,