The basketball gods must love irony.
It’s the only way to explain how Rudy Gobert – the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 – could wind up being the same person to score the first, and last, points of the opening game to the league’s restart on Thursday night. Gobert literally opened and closed the box score, as the Utah Jazz defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 106-104 from The Bubble in Orlando.
“I’m just grateful,” Gobert told ESPN. “Just grateful to be able to do what I love to do. After everything that I’ve personally and everything the world is going through right now, to be able to keep inspiring millions of kids around the world and keep spreading positivity is just a blessing.”
“And it’s great to start with a win, of course.”
But while Gobert may be the poster child for how the coronavirus has affected the NBA, LeBron is still the king. James hit the winning basket and made the final defensive stop to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Clippers.
Before each game, teams came together to kneel in peaceful protest during the national anthem. And when I say everybody kneeled, I mean everybody, including players, coaches, referees, and league personnel.
“There’s been progress. But in the past when we’ve seen progress, we’ve let our foot off the glass a little bit,” James told TNT after the game. “We can’t do that. We want to continue to keep our foot on the gas. Continue to push forward. Continue to spread love throughout America. We’re dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality. Not only in my neighborhoods. Not only with Black people and people of color. It’s something we want to continue to have people’s ears open to. And we have ears now, but we cannot stop with our foot on the gas with what we’ve been doing over the last few months.”
The players were challenging a rule that came into play in 1981, stating that “players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line” during the playing of the national anthem.”
In 1996, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf tested the rule when he didn’t stand for the anthem due to his religious and personal beliefs. He was suspended for one game and worked out an agreement with the league which allowed him to stand and cup his hands in front of his face in prayer. However, he was eventually blackballed, foreshadowing what would happen to Colin Kaepernick 20 years later in the NFL.
“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our nation