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How Rudy Gobert and the NBA’s season suspension was the ‘exclamation point’ for canceling NCAA Tournament

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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) reacts after scoring a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


It took until last Thursday afternoon for it to become official, but like many sports organizations and events, the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments that day after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first athlete in the United States to test positive for coronavirus.

On Sunday, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach wrote how the NCAA was planning to move forward last Wednesday with the tournaments being played, albeit without fans in the stands, but Gobert testing positive for the virus and the NBA subsequently canceling its season that night changed everything.

Schlabach quoted NCAA president Mark Emmert as saying the NBA suspending its season was the “exclamation point” for canceling the tournaments.

“It was like, ‘Yeah, this is real,’” Emmert is quoted as saying.

Added NCAA vice president for men’s basketball Dan Gavitt: “When Rudy Gobert was infected on Wednesday night, I think the realization in the basketball community hit home and was very much felt on Thursday morning,” Gavitt said. “The student-athletes, from what we were hearing and sensing, felt very vulnerable. Here was someone they would all like to be one day, playing in the NBA, who got infected and was quarantined with his teammates. His opponents were quarantined.

“That was really, in my opinion, a seminal moment in everybody’s mindset about how impractical and possibly not responsible it would be at that point to go forward with trying to hold these national championships.”