Wizards' biggest stories of 2020: the day the league shut down


Tom Hanks and Rudy Gobert are two names I never expected to be linked, but they will now be connected in my mind forever moving forward. They were the two big names that on March 11 we learned had tested positive for coronavirus.

With Hanks came the realization by many that this could happen to anyone, even Forrest Gump. With Gobert, it set forth a chain of events that very quickly led to the shut down of the NBA and, subsequently, the entire world of sports.

Back then, in the early days of the coronavirus reaching our shores and our consciousness, none of us truly knew what someone like Gobert getting Covid-19 meant. But it was immediately clear the league had to take action, so they did and cancelled the Jazz vs. Thunder game not long before tip-off. That led to a memorable scene in Chesapeake Energy Arena, as the game was called with fans already in the seats.

Gobert wasn't at the arena in Oklahoma City, but his previous steps were pored over and scrutinized. There was a viral video of him pretending to touch all the microphones during a press conference held just days earlier. He was also reportedly just as cavalier in the Jazz' locker room, adding to the questions of whom he could have spread the virus to.

Around the league, everyone checked team schedules to do their own contact tracing. The Wizards had played the Jazz fewer than two weeks before, and the virus was said to stay in one's system for 10-to-14 days. Washington had also just played the Knicks on March 10 and New York had played the Jazz on March 4. There was also news the team's practice facility had a positive case relating to a college basketball tournament. 


Many of us have experienced that feeling at one point or another in the last nine months. There's nothing quite like learning you may have been around someone who had the coronavirus. It was especially jarring back in March, when testing was not readily available. The only option was to quarantine; just isolate and wait.

Little did we know, it would take five more months before the league returned to action. It would happen in a bubble held at the campus of Disney World in Orlando, FL. Despite a 100-year pandemic, the NBA would crown its champion.

Other leagues also shut down and then returned. The NHL was midseason back in March and hit the pause button. Major League Baseball didn't get going until July. The NFL cancelled its preseason. The entire world of sports was changed and Gobert testing positive was in many ways the start of it. 

Decades from now, the news of Gobert's positive test and the resulting days of panic will be remembered as part of the saga that was the initial onset of the coronavirus in the United States. Sports took a backseat this year and many years from now, what happened in the NBA bubble will pale in comparison to the much more important things that occurred in life, politics and around the world.

But the timing of the Gobert news, and the magnitude of what came after, etched his name into history, not just sports history. The aftershocks were felt everywhere, even in Washington, and they continue to be felt today.

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