When he finished, he nodded that he was ready to describe in detail his appearance as the face of a new coronavirus in American sports, a physically and emotionally aggravating stretch during which he fought off the coronavirus and faced sharp criticism for negligent behavior that led to his positive test.
“The media portrayed it the way I forced the NBU to close,” Robert said quietly, telling The Washington Post in an extended interview on Friday. “Instead of saying it was a pandemic, Rudy Gobert tested positive. For many people who don̵7;t think beyond what is in their face, they really thought I brought the coronavirus to the United States. “
Robert, a humorous suicide, smiled at the thought, but he was not joking.
‘I know who I am’
It was only a matter of time before someone was referred to as a “Zero Patient” athlete.
In early March, states and local governments in California and Ohio began pressuring NBA and NHL teams to empty fan arenas after watching the coronavirus disrupt football and basketball leagues abroad. When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver observed developments in the United States and abroad, some owners argued that the league should not cease operations with billions in revenue.
The turning point came on March 11, when Robert tested positive for coronavirus in Oklahoma City. Medical officials abruptly abandoned the Jazz game against Thunderstorms that night, and Silver suspended the NBA season indefinitely for several hours. The NHL, MLB and MLS briefly adhered to this decision, leaving fans and television networks with blank calendars.
Health officials breathed a sigh of relief: the immediate shutdown of the sport meant that hundreds of games played indoors in front of tens of thousands of fans would not take place. For a country still struggling with social distance and domestic isolation, it was a critical step.
Instead of “get well” cards, Gober received an avalanche of criticism. Shortly before his positive test, Robert came across a camera touching a table full of reporters’ microphones. The clip has been viewed millions of times on social media, prompting angry and timid observers to conclude that Gober highlights the NBA’s early guidelines on social distancing and puts others at risk. Worse, jazz bodyguard Donovan Mitchell and Detroit Portons, Christian Wood later tested positive after close contact with Hubert.
Hubert admitted on Friday that the video made him look like “someone who doesn’t care about other people’s safety or lives.” In March, he quickly moved to a correction, apologizing, removing his public service advertisement and donating $ 500,000 to support coronavirus activities in Utah, Oklahoma and his native France.
“It was hard for me to see how many people questioned my character based on one video,” said Robert. “It was a great learning experience. I know who I am. People around me know who I am. Everyone will have a different perception and opinion about you. If I start investing my energy, I will lead a very painful life. “
Still, the losses were serious. Mitchell told “Good Morning America” that “I needed to cool down a bit” and that he did not communicate with Robert at first after their positive tests. The potential impact of the virus on athletes has called into question their partnership. The 28-year-old Robert spent his entire career in Utah, becoming the defensive player of the year and signing a four-year contract worth 102 million US dollars in the contract. Another nine-figure deal is likely to take place in 2021, but all of a sudden there was doubt. Would Mitchell forgive him? Anyway, would jazz be forced to research trade?
Gober chose not to defend himself, in part because he had more immediate problems. His initial symptoms, which felt like a common cold, worsened when he returned to Utah. He lost his sense of taste and smell, and his toes began to tingle. The mental challenges and fears were as bad as the physical consequences, Gobert recalled, and concerns about “my life and my family” led to thoughts about his career. His mother Corrin was stuck in France, alone, at a time when international travel was impractical or impossible.
“The hardest part was that I was away from my mother,” Gober said reluctantly, noting that his mother and son were in the longest separation of his life. “I didn’t want her to come because I didn’t know if I was still contagious or not. I still haven’t seen my mother since it all happened. That’s something I don’t like to talk about, but she was very supportive because I was very young. Just knowing how worried she was and knowing she couldn’t be with me was hard enough in my mind. “
The chef and Gobert’s personal assistant came to his aid as he recovered. Friends and family couldn’t bring the negative headlines to mind, but they tried to comfort Gobert by reminding him that another week of professional sports would only help spread the virus.
He tried to understand how he contracted the virus, concluding that it most likely happened on a trip to New York, Boston or Detroit. He wondered how it was possible that other members of Jazz did not feel positive, given that he shared locker rooms with his teammates and received a massage from the team. When he recovered, he concluded that he was probably not the first NBA player to be infected with the virus – only the first to return a positive test. He may be careless with microphones, but Mitchell or Wood could easily expose him to the virus, not the other way around.
Although Gober acknowledged that “it’s hard for me to be vulnerable” when discussing his mental health, he “looked at some things that people don’t know.” The period was so difficult that he did not feel ready to play when the concept of bubbles gained traction in April.
“I didn’t have the right mood to play basketball yet,” said Robert. “I did not think it could happen at that moment. As things went on, we met and learned more about the virus, and I began to feel better mentally and physically. The main concern of most of us was that they did not just expose us to play and generate money, but not to take care of our health. I felt better over time [and dialogue] with the NBA and [National Basketball Players Association]. “
American professional sports gradually returned this month, and the NBA began resuming the season on Thursday. Gober and jazz will play the New Orleans Pelican in the opening of the bubble, a symbol of a full-cycle basketball journey over the past four months.
Gober managed to think about his brush with the coronavirus and his role as team leader. He may have been “too honest” when communicating with teammates in the past. He may have come out “always negative” when asking for the ball or giving out defensive instructions.
At the end of the reception, so many words of pity, he made a point to work on their own communication. He wants to be a “competitive” leader, able to “tell” [teammates] things you don’t want to hear “but still making sure to” put yourself in other people’s shoes. “
Jazz has been coming back together for weeks to prepare for the playoffs, with Mitchell and Robert joining the OOP and High Five during Monday’s warm-up. According to Robert, the most secret inner moments of jazz in the past.
“When it all happened, [Mitchell] “I was disappointed,” said Robert. “I was disappointed. I really wanted to make sure he was okay. There was no real conflict or argument. [After time passed]I was able to call him and tell him what was on my mind, and he did the same. I think men should do it. Do not expose the business there in the media. People saw it as something that could destroy the group. I see it as something that can make the group even stronger. If you can come back from this, we won’t have to worry about the team hitting us or a bad defensive quarter. It gives perspective. “
After four months of trying, Robert said he was now physically healthy and mentally “wonderful.” He has not fully regained his sense of smell, but feels in a bubble and hopes that the sport will be able to fill the vacuum that first appeared in March.
“If the NBA doesn’t work, the world doesn’t work the same way,” he said. “It’s not like before, but basketball is our life. When you take it away from us, something is missing. He feels empty. “
The NBA community is still adapting to its new reality. Players have set up shop at three Disney hotels, wearing masks while training and suffocating in their rooms after games. Disinfectant wipes are always at hand; reporters’ microphones remain at a safe social distance.
The fast-paced basketball journey is about to begin, and the first player to touch the ball on the night of the opening day may well be the same player whose positive test caused Silver to stop playing in March. Even with the protracted construction of basketball and the detention of the coronavirus, Gober focused on decency.
“We all tend to judge people without knowing them,” he said. “You watch us play basketball every day, but you don’t know who we are, what we’ve been through, what we’re going through. Meet people. Go deeper. You can spread a lot of positive messages [on social media] but you can also spread hatred and judgment. You have a choice. “