Imagine going to your regularly scheduled NBA game, being informed that it's postponed, and then finding out the country and sports as you know them are shutting down down due to a surging pandemic. That's what went down with Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz when they visited Oklahoma City on March 11, 2020...and that's just the tip of the iceberg as the cliche states.
Well worth watching the eight-minute clip above to hear Mitchell tell the tale himself. It's my duty to provide some key quotes from what Mitchell shared with JJ Redick on his The Old Man & The Three podcast, though.
Let's start with just how long it took Mitchell and the Jazz to exit the Thunder's arena once they were called off the court and informed that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID. I'll skip around for the sake of succinctness:
"We were in the locker room for nine hours. [...] I wouldn't say it was panic in the locker room, it was just like, 'What can we do?' ...Shout out to CP (Chris Paul) he gave us 15 bottles of wine that night. [...] We got drunk, not gonna lie to you! [...] Everybody's calling, we're on FaceTime with everybody. Everybody you can think of is calling everybody in this locker room. And we're just sitting there like, we just don't know what's going to happen. We're trying to drink to not be scared...one of those moments where you're just helpless."
HOW ABOUT CHRIS PAUL coming through with the wine to get everyone hammered!? CP3 knows how to get down apparently. I bet he wasn't that drunk to be real. Whatever. Still a cool move. When they just kept referring to him as "Chris" and "CP" in the clip, I had to really rack my mind to remember that, "Oh yeah, Chris Paul played for the Thunder that one random season and somehow got them to the playoffs even though they've been trying to tank for like a decade."
Pressing on...Mitchell then explained that once they finally rolled out to the Renaissance Inn hotel, among the travel party of 53, all the non-Jazz players, including the bus driver, were wearing full hazmat suits. The entire hotel was cleared out. Mitchell is trying to call in favors to get a private plane there, and no one is able to do it.
So then...it's just a bunch of NBA players who can't get food or do much of anything, sitting on the curb of this hotel somewhere in OKC, pounding Bud Lights while staying up all night and wondering what the actual fuck is going on. There was also the unsettling situation of Jazz big man Ed Davis, who was nursing a cold. As Mitchell noted, so little was known about COVID at the time and teammates were avoiding Davis like the plague.
"It was just crazy, man. It was like a scene out of a movie. I'll never forget that night. I have pictures on my phone from that night that I'll probably frame up in my house at some point in time and tell my kids, like, this is one of the biggest moments in sports, in the history of the country."
As for Gobert's positive COVID test and the subsequent revelation that Mitchell, too, had COVID, he said he was "angry" at Gobert and that the way it was reported in the media. He added that was probably the most accurate story that had ever emerged about the stream of reports of friction between Mitchell and Gobert that ultimately blew up that era of the Jazz.
I'm just glad Utah broke up the band. Although its bid to tank for Victor Wembanyama got off to a bad start last night with an upset win over the Nuggets, I'm much more interested to see what Mitchell and Gobert can do with their new teams in the Cavs and Timberwolves respectively.
Hard to believe how long ago that Jazz-Thunder game was. Feels like last week.