Rudy Gobert and Corona Virus – Fact vs Fiction

As shelter-in-place restrictions begin to relax across the country, many professional sports leagues can start to plan when and how their sport will return, and what it will look like. Can the games be played at the home team’s facilities, or must they be played in a few designated locations? When can fans return to the games? Should the seasons be shortened, or should the season simply be canceled for some sports?

As all this is evolving, TrueSportsMovies takes a look back at the one singular event which led to the hiatus of every single major sporting event. It has been two months since Rudy Gobert infamously joked about COVID-19 during a press conference on March 9, 2020, where he decided to take a carefree approach to the virus and put his hands all over the microphones. Two days later, Gobert was diagnosed with having COVID-19.

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Patient Zero for NBA and all Professional Sports

It’s unknown when Rudy Gobert contracted the corona virus, but assume it occurred on March 9th when he touched all the microphones as a joke when he left his pregame press conference. The connect-the-dots science below is very inexact, but its purpose is to demonstrate the potential of how easily, quickly, and widely Covid-19 can spread across the country.

  • Gobert could have infected one or more of his teammates (we know Donovan Mitchell tested positive a day after Gobert was diagnosed; whether or not Gobert was the source is unknown) or Utah Jazz trainers, coaches, and personnel. A tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Jazz players said Gobert was “careless in the locker room, touching other players and their belongings”
  • Gobert, or anyone else affiliated with the Jazz that was exposed could have infected players, coaches, and personnel on the Toronto Raptors, their opponent that night.
  • Likewise, the referee crew and fans at the game could have been exposed.
  • If that team of referees had to work another game the next night (March 10th) in a different city, it’s possible that the players, coaches, staff, and fans of those two teams could have been exposed as well; that’s a total of 4 NBA teams that were one-step or less removed from Rudy Gobert.
  • If those referees worked the New York Knicks or the Dallas Mavericks games, those two teams played a back-to-back on the 10th and 11th (in Atlanta and in Denver, which are two-steps removed from Rudy Gobert)
  • The Utah Jazz played the Oklahoma City Thunder on the 11th, which is another team that had direct contact to Rudy Gobert; that’s the day he felt ill and was diagnosed (and possibly more contagious).
  • Within 3 days, 7 NBA teams – players, coaches, staff, and immediate family – could have been exposed to Covid-19 originating from Rudy Gobert.
  • Fans from at least 4 cities (not counting additional cities where the Jazz/Raptors referee crew might have worked after the game on the 9th) could have been exposed; any exposed fans could have transmitted it to their family, coworkers, friends, or the general public.
  • The Detroit Piston’s Christian Wood, who matched up opposite Gobert in the March 7th game between the Pistons and the Jazz, also tested positive for corona virus. So it’s possible that Gobert had the virus a few days before the March 9th incident and if this is true, then even more teams and more fans in more cities could have been exposed and transmitted the virus to a wider population.

Prior to Rudy Gobert’s diagnosis, many sports teams were already discussing the possibility of playing games without fans as a precaution. Upon that announcement, the NBA was very quick to suspend the season, and all major sports leagues soon followed suit.

Fact or Fiction

When the story first broke and for many days after, different accounts of what happened before, during, and after Gobert’s positive diagnosis were reported. Some of those facts have proven to be false, others to be true, and the rest are still uncertain.

  • Did Rudy Gobert lick any microphones?
    The Hamilton Spector, a Toronto news source, reported on March 12th that Gobert was “rubbing his hands over the table he was seated at and “licking microphones in front of him” in the pre-game press conference before the Raptors/Jazz game that night. The video clip below shows Gobert touching the table and several microphones, but he definitely DOES NOT lick anything.
  • Did Donovan Mitchell state that he and Gobert’s relationship is “unsalvageable”?
    On April 10th, numerous sources including SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, and Clutch Points all reported the same news that the relationship between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell “doesn’t appear salvageable”, according to sources.

    Donovan Mitchell, in a Good Morning America interview with Robin Roberts, dodged the question on whether or not he and Gobert have spoken recently. It’s not definitive whether Mitchell actually said those words or whether it’s the opinion of insiders.

  • What’s the current state of the relationship?
    On April 12th, USA Today and ESPN both report that Rudy Gobert describes the bad blood in the relationship has been overblown and only initially did the two not talk, but have since made amends. This isn’t exactly how Gobert himself described it in an Instagram Live session with Taylor Rooks that same day, stating the relationship is “far from perfect”.
  • Most recently on May 5th, Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations, Dennis Lindsey, reported that both players have met with ownership, management, and coaches. They’ve said their piece and are ready to move forward and act professionally.

  • What symptons did Gobert and Mitchell show?
    Per Gobert’s own words on Twitter:

    Mitchell, on the same “Good Morning America” show on March 16, said he was asymptomatic of corona virus, showing no symptoms or signs of the virus.

  • Are the rumors of trading Gobert or Mitchell accurate?
    Bleacher Report reported on April 15th that the Utah Jazz realize there are “significant issues” between the two players, yet they were not going to choose between the two for a trade. Dennis Lindsey’s statements above also indicate that the two players are ready to move forward together.

    Interestingly, a separate report came out on April 21st where David Aldrige of The Athletic, stated that there were already thoughts of trading Rudy Gobert prior to the COVID-19 press conference ordeal: “There have been rumblings well before either of them contracted corona virus that the Jazz were growing weary of Gobert….he might be more available than you’d think”.

  • What’s the health status of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell now?
    On March 27, 2020, multiple sources including NBA.com reported that both of these players, as well as the rest of the Jazz’s roster and personnel, have been cleared by the Utah Department of Health and “no longer pose a risk of infection to others.”

To say the least, the situation between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell is very complicated and very fluid for both players and for the Utah Jazz organization.

Other Athletes Diagnosed with Covid-19

Daniele Rugani, Juventus Defender
Paulo Dybala, Juventus Forward
Blaise Matuidi, Juventus Midfielder
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal Manager
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets Forward
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics Guard
Sean Payton, Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints
Von Miller, Denver Broncos Linebacker
See 247Sports and Men’s Health for a list of more athletes that have tested positive for Corona Virus

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