Utah Jazz: Despite his actions, Rudy Gobert is not the villain

(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz has become the NBA’s “villain” after his actions prior to the season’s suspension, but it might be time to rethink that narrative.

It seemed like ages ago that everything went down on that fateful night of March 11th, where the Utah Jazz visited the Oklahoma City Thunder for a regular-season matchup. Something seemed off from the beginning, with neither Rudy Gobert nor Emmanuel Mudiay present for pregame warmups. Seconds before tipoff, players headed back to the locker room as Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus.

Shortly after, the league dropped a bombshell follow up as the season got suspended indefinitely because of the test. It all happened so fast that it shocked the world because of Gobert’s careless actions in a previous press conference. The center made a point to touch every single mic and recorder in front of him a few days prior, believing it was all fun and games, which many believed led to his positive test and more within the Utah Jazz organization.

More from Hoops Habit

Since then, Gobert has had a target on his back within the NBA fanbase, the media, and even some players, as he and teammate Donovan Mitchell had a rift after the guard tested positive for the virus also. Four months later, Gobert remains the NBA’s villain in the eyes of some as the perception was that his reckless actions caused an entire league to shut down at the back end of their season.

Gobert soon donated $500,000 to support the employee relief fund at Vivint Smart Home Arena, as well as COVID-related social services relief in Utah, Oklahoma City, and within the French health care system. As kind of a gesture as it was, it certainly did not make up for his previous actions for many.

Over four months since the NBA suspended play that night, the league is gearing up for a restart, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Seeing how this virus has rapidly expanded and effected the country, perhaps Rudy Gobert might have unknowingly did something positive, potentially preventing a widespread outbreak within the NBA. Had that happened, there likely would have been no restart whatsoever.

In the bigger picture, Gobert’s actions could have saved and helped the lives of a significant amount of people. Had this positive test never happened, and the season continued, the likelihood of more unknowingly infected players would have continued to rise. How far things could have exactly developed will forever remain unknown, thankfully. Still, Gobert’s test came at a much needed time.

Until the point where Gobert tested positive and shut the league down, nobody, not even the president of the United States, was taking the virus seriously. Then in one blink of an eye, one positive test later, everyone’s perspective changed as they realized that this virus was a genuine threat and that they should pay attention to it. In hindsight, Gobert potentially saved lives in the process of postponing the NBA season. This shutdown was bound to happen anyway, Gobert only sped up the process.

With the NBA nearing resumption in the coming weeks, Gobert is back in the news making headlines, but not for a good reason. When asked about the NBA’s anonymous tip line, where players can call in players violating the league’s safety protocols, he gave an answer that some believed was tone-deaf.

“I don’t know if someone’s gonna use it, but I think it’s sort of petty,” said Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Most outlets used that portion of the excerpt and ran with it, only fueling the narrative that Gobert had not learned his lesson and that he should read the room. However, the rest of it continued with:

“At the same time, you want to make sure that people respect the rules.”

More from Utah Jazz

“But I don’t think the line will really help at that point. I think it’s more about respecting each other and all do it as a small community. Everyone is pretty much educated about the virus at this point and it’s more about respect. At the same time, you want to make sure you socialize and do all those things, but still respecting each other’s space and try to wear the mask inside, especially when it’s crowded.”

Most people do not want to hear anything from Rudy Gobert right now, as his careless actions still occupy their feelings towards him. A player like Gobert discussing how to respect the rules after his actions caused an entire league to shutdown seems ironic, but he wants the season to resume just as much as everyone else.

Gobert put the sports world on a nearly four-month hiatus but potentially saved it in the long-term aspect. Love him or hate him, the Utah Jazz big man opened the eyes of the NBA world and its followers that this virus was real and that it can infect anyone.

Hopefully, Gobert does not continue to get targeted over this incident, because how things transpired, this might have been a good thing not just for the Utah Jazz, but for the rest of the league. As much as everyone loves the NBA, some things are bigger than basketball, and at that moment, shutting down the league was unquestionably the right decision.

Next. Jazz: Clarkson’s play could potentially keep the team afloat. dark