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Rudy Gobert reflects on last season's COVID-19 microphone incident: I was trying 'to liven the mood'

Ryan Young
·Writer
·4-min read

Rudy Gobert’s microphone encounter last March has been viewed and criticized countless times in the months that followed.

The Utah Jazz big man was even partially blamed, unfairly, for the NBA season shutting down temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, more than nine months later as the Jazz get their 2020-21 season underway, Gobert is still working to make sure people know why he was joking about the coronavirus pandemic that day.

“It came from a good intention,” Gobert told ESPN on Thursday. “It was the first day that we found out that the media was not going to be able to interview us, right next to us, and, you know, we obviously didn't know as much as we know now, and I only did that to try to liven the mood a little bit.

“It was, of course, if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do it.”

Rudy Gobert’s positive test led to NBA shutdown

Gobert, as he wrapped up an interview session, jokingly went out of his way to touch every single microphone and recording device in front of him. Gobert was also reportedly touching players and their belongings in the locker room repeatedly, too — which didn’t go over well.

He then tested positive for the coronavirus just days later, which prompted the league to suspend play completely almost instantly on March 11.

“It was great that the NBA reacted as fast as they did because just having thousands and thousands of people in a closed space, next to each other, while having way more people testing positive ... it was really the smartest thing to do to try to save as many lives as they could,” Gobert said, via ESPN.

As the first person in the league known to have had the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic in the United States, Gobert was scared.

“Just all the unknowns — a lot of things, and there still is, a lot of things that we don't know about this virus, and even less at the time,” He said, via ESPN. “And being the first professional NBA player testing positive brought a lot of thoughts in my mind. It was, you know, just looking at stuff and wondering if you're going to be OK, if you're not going to be OK. Thinking about my family that wasn't able to be with me. It was a lot to process at the time.

“But once I was able to sit back and also realize that it wasn't just me, the whole world was going through that, and some people were losing their jobs, losing family members ... I mean, it was just a tough time for all of us.”

‘Hopefully we turn the corner pretty soon’

Gobert is in a much better place now.

Not only is he healed and healthy again, but he signed a massive five-year, $205 million contract extension with the Jazz this week — which marks the largest deal for a center in NBA history.

He dropped 20 points and had 17 rebounds in their 120-100 win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, too.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, is still raging across the country. There have been more than 213,000 new cases per day over the past week, according to The New York Times, and more than 2,600 deaths a day.

Naturally, the coronavirus is still very much something Gobert is thinking about constantly.

“I think everyone in the world right now has that word in the front of their mind,” he said, via ESPN. “You know, it's something that we hear about every day. It's something that really affected our lives, indirectly or directly. So it's something that we are all going through right now, and hopefully, we turn the corner pretty soon.”

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is still being asked about his microphone incident in March. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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