BOSTON — No matter what Rudy Gobert does going forward basketball-wise, he will always be associated with the coronavirus.
Him being the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 would normally draw sympathy from all corners of the globe.
But the laissez-faire approach he took with something that’s deadly serious, like touching the tape recorders and microphones earlier this week, putting both himself and his Utah Jazz teammates —and the entire NBA for that matter — in the crosshairs of this global pandemic is difficult to process.
Making matters worse? The fact that his teammate Donovan Mitchell, the face of the franchise, has also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Like many folks in this country, from athletes to media to government officials, Gobert didn’t take the coronavirus seriously, with some even calling it a hoax.
But this isn’t a beat-up-on-Rudy take.
There’s plenty of time and people interested in going that route.
No, this isn’t so much about what happened, but how Gobert’s carelessness may actually wind up saving lives.
Gobert testing positive left the NBA very little choice in terms of how to address the coronavirus pandemic.
No longer was it something that was “out there” — and by out there, I mean anywhere but the NBA.
Gobert’s positive test meant that a league with the best doctors, a league full of athletes who often seem impervious to the ills and challenges of the average Joe or Jane Doe, was just as susceptible to the virus.
The NBA was considering playing games with no media and just fans, which was a horrible idea.
The virus thrives on people being in close proximity to one another. Taking a couple dozen folks out of the incubator that is an NBA arena but leaving behind thousands who are elbow-to-elbow for a couple hours?
Suspending the season was the best move the league could have made, both in terms of the health of its players and fans.
And there’s no telling that would have been the decision the league would have reached if not for Gobert’s positive test.
But here’s what really makes this such a monumental moment.
The NBA’s decision has been the catalyst for a bevy of other sports to suspend competition — or even cancel events entirely, like the NCAA did with March Madness — recognizing the risk of even playing in front of a dramatically reduced crowd at this point far outweighs any kind of benefit or reward that would come about by playing games now.
“This, at this point in time, is the right decision that they made,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes told ESPN shortly after the SEC Tournament was canceled.
So for those who want to keep beating up on Rudy Gobert, I get it. It makes sense.
But in doing so, be mindful that Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus sparked action by the NBA, the kind of necessary action that has been a catalyst for others that will undoubtedly save lives by limiting the potential spreading of the virus and helping bring this global crisis to an end sooner rather than later.