The NBA’s sudden decision to suspend its season until further notice last night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus was a terrific first step toward acknowledging the inevitable.
Next, the league should just officially cancel the rest of the season. In light of the massive revenue that professional sports makes from TV contracts, the temptation is probably strong to think that the season can be salvaged and that everything will quickly go back to normal. The ripple effects from Gobert’s positive test showed exactly why that is impossible. Early Thursday, ESPN reported that Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the coronavirus. The NBA now has two confirmed cases of the virus within 24 hours of the World Health Organization declaring that COVID-19 is a pandemic.
Right before the Jazz were supposed to tip off against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, a medical official informed the referees that Gobert—who had mocked the seriousness of the coronavirus with reporters two days before by touching all of their microphones—had been infected. Within minutes, the game was canceled. In that moment, one can only imagine the anxiety felt by Gobert’s teammates and even the reporters who covered the game—all of whom were quarantined inside the arena for several hours as Oklahoma health officials tested them for COVID-19, the disease caused by this novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, other team personnel were tested at the team’s hotel in Oklahoma City.