By Senji Torrey
Though the coronavirus seems to be affecting every industry and class, one organization that has been particularly affected by the coronavirus is the NBA. After the termination of the 2019-20 season, it may seem next to impossible for any of the players to catch the coronavirus. However, because it only takes one individual to spread this virus, and given the close proximity in which basketball is played, it should not come as a surprise that the NBA has become a hotspot for COVID-19.
The NBA’s first encounter with the coronavirus came by way of the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert. After being asked by reporters about some coughing during a press conference, Gobert made sure to touch each and every one of the reporter’s microphones as a joke, suggesting that his cough was trivial in nature. Later, Gobert was tested and found out that he had contracted the virus.
The French national sent out a tweet that read “I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this [virus] seriously.”
The NBA has made a strong effort to protect their players and staff, even canceling a game between the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder just hours after Gobert tested positive for the virus. In addition, the league was suspended indefinitely on Mar. 11, the same day that the Jazz vs. Thunder game was postponed. As an additional precaution, The NBA sent out requests to teams who played games in the days leading up to the shutdown to self-quarantine for at least ten days.
Unfortunately, even the quick reaction from the NBA could not prevent multiple players from getting the virus. The Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart and Gobert’s teammate Donavan Mitchell were among the many NBA players who contracted the virus. Both players have since recovered after most likely receiving the virus from Gobert himself as the Celtics played the Jazz on Mar. 6, just five days before the NBA called off the season.
One precaution that the NBA took, testing the entire Brooklyn Nets team for the virus, sparked controversy from politicians. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio commented in a tweet, writing “with all due respect, an entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be tested. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick.” Mike Bass, a spokesperson for the NBA rationalized the NBA’s actions by saying that “Public health authorities and team doctors have been concerned that, given NBA players’ direct contact with each other and close interactions with the general public, in addition to their frequent travel, they could accelerate the spread of the virus.”
Politicians are not the only ones who are frustrated; many of the players themselves are also aggravated and dissatisfied by their season coming to such an abrupt close. When Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Lebron James was asked about the potential of playing games without fans, he said “Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing.” Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry also addressed the situation, saying that “I’ve been in this league for a very long time and never had to deal with anything like this. It’ll be different, it’ll be weird.” He would later post on his Twitter that “Basketball will be back at some point but right now, protect yourself and stay safe out there.” The Portland Trailblazer’s CJ McCollum took a different approach to the termination of the league by writing, “I hope all the players take some time to really work on life outside of basketball. Using your resources and celebrity to your advantage…Diversify and learn to explore other avenues of income while you’re still in the league.”
The NBA shutdown has not only drawn attention from players, but also from the very top. President Donald Trump met with Commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA officials to discuss the current situation. Trump urged not only the NBA to get back on schedule, but also the NFL, stating “They gotta get back. They can’t do this.” He later talked about how these leagues are not the type of industry that can be terminated. Silver responded by saying that as soon as the NBA got the “all clear” from the proper health officials, the games would begin once again.
One trio of players who have stood out in the coronavirus relief effort is brothers Giannis, Thanasis, and Kostas Antetokounmpo. This Greek trio has sent over 20,000 masks to cities such as Athens and Zografou. Due to the current travel ban in place, Giannis, Thanasis, and Kostas will not be able to go to their home country, but are hopeful that their families will remain safe and healthy during their absence.
Though there are no real games going on at the moment, the NBA has organized a tournament in NBA 2K20, a popular video game, where NBA players compete live in front of their fans. The NBA is also putting together virtual games of H.O.R.S.E. between NBA players that will be televised by ESPN. Despite this effort, many fans are still waiting in anticipation for when they can see their favorite teams take the real court once again.
(Sources: Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, USA Today, Click Orlando, Twitter, YouTube, Clutch Points, Sports Illustrated)