While the coronavirus was always going to make it into the NBA, Gobert’s case is a bit unusual — most notably because of how he acted with the media just days prior to his positive test.
Gobert jokingly went out of his way to touch every single microphone and recording device in front of him before leaving the room after a media conference in March, clearly making light of the global pandemic.
Naturally, given how he later tested positive, that joke didn’t go over well — and he’s still feeling the repercussions months later.
“I'm someone that jokes around all the time,” Gobert said, via the Salt Lake Tribune. “People that really know me know my heart. Touching the mics made me look bad. It's all about perception … It made me look like someone who doesn't care about other people's lives.”
Gobert’s joke didn’t stop there. He reportedly touched players and their belongings in the locker room repeatedly, even after the seriousness of the virus had been stressed to the team.
Teammate Donovan Mitchell later contracted the virus — it’s unknown, and never will be known, if that’s Gobert’s fault or not — and was extremely frustrated with him for a long time. At one point, their relationship reportedly didn’t “appear salvageable.”
Mitchell, though, said the two have moved past it on Thursday and are ready to play when the league resumes its season later this month at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.
Gobert echoed those thoughts on Friday.
“No one expects it to be perfect, and it’s never gonna be perfect. I’ve never had perfect relationships — with my teammates or even my family members or pretty much anyone that’s around me,” Gobert said, via the Salt Lake Tribune. “But, you know, as long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters.”
Gobert was averaging 15.1 points and 13.7 rebounds this season, his seventh in the league, when play was suspended. The 28-year-old, who was twice named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, has one season left on his four-year, $102 million deal with the Jazz — whom he’s spent his entire NBA career with. The team is set to enter the NBA’s restart with a 41-23 record, the fourth-best in the Western Conference.
Though he admits it wasn’t easy early on, Gobert has realized he can’t control how people outside the organization or the NBA view him. He may never be able to shed the reputation of being the player who jokingly touched all of the microphones ahead of the shutdown, either.
So, he’s done trying.
He’s ready to put the incident behind him, and simply focus on what he can control.
“People just judge you on the perception they have, and the perception they get from … it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action,” Gobert said, via the Salt Lake Tribune. “People don’t really know you … The people around me really know me and know who I am. And that’s what matters to me.
“At the end of the day, I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions, I can control the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control. And that’s what really matters to me.”
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