It’s been nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the defining moments, at least here stateside, will always be the week sports shut down, signaling the beginning of widespread shut downs in workplaces around the country.
At the center of it all was the NBA and, specifically, the Utah Jazz, as Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID, leading to a surreal scene in Oklahoma City in which the teams were pulled off of the floor, the game was cancelled, and the Jazz were forced to stay in the locker room all night waiting for their tests to come back.
On the most recent episode of The Old Man & The Three podcast, Donovan Mitchell recalled what that night was like, explaining to JJ Redick that the Jazz were in the locker room for nine hours because no one in Oklahoma City wanted them to be at a hotel or go anywhere while no one knew the rest of the team’s status. That naturally begs the question of what do you do while trapped in a visiting locker room (which never features the amenities of the home locker room), and the answer, apparently, is get drunk courtesy of Chris Paul.
“It was just like, what can we do? We’re here, and shouts to [Chris Paul] he sent 15 bottles of wine that night,” Mitchell recalled. “So we had food and we had wine, so we got drunk. I’m not gonna lie to you, we got drunk. Cause we’re just like, there’s definitely no game, we’re not gonna play for awhile, and you’re in a moment where…we’re sitting there like we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re trying to drink to not be scared, you know, one of those moments where you’re helpless.”
First off, if you were wondering how you become the president of the NBPA, it’s being the guy that sends wine to a team trapped in a locker room overnight. Second, it’s hard to blame the Jazz for trying to distract themselves from the situation because, as Mitchell notes, this was at the peak of paranoia about COVID and also the time when we knew the least about it — he jokes this was when the messaging was to just wash your hands for a long time.
Mitchell goes on to tell the full story of the next 24 hours, which featured more drinking (this time Bud Lights) on the curb outside the OKC Renaissance Inn while he tried in vain to get someone to send a private plane to get the players back to Utah. It truly is one of the wildest nights in sports history given what transpired immediately after and how it was, in a way, the signal of what was to come, and Mitchell says he still has photos from that night he might put up in his house one day so he can tell the story to his grandkids.