Welcome to Deadspin’s farewell-to-2020 IDIOT OF THE YEAR awards! If you have made it this far, then congratulations, brave traveler.
It’s 2040, and you’re out at a bar trivia night. It’s safe to do that again, has been for 19 years or so now.
“The NBA’s leader in total rebounds in 2019-20, this player was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, an All-Star, and four-time first-team All-Defense,” the emcee says.
You’re racking your brain, and you think maybe it could be Andre Drummond, or Hassan Whiteside, or maybe even Bam Adebayo? No, wait, those guys weren’t DPOYs… jeez, who is it?
“Oh, yeah,” the emcee adds. “You might also know this player as the COVID guy.”
Before the word “guy” is even done reverberating through the bar, you’ve written down the correct answer. Of course, it’s Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s Typhoid Mary.
It’s not just that no matter what he does, like signing a well-earned, five-year, $205 million extension with the Jazz two weeks ago, Gobert always will be remembered for goofily rubbing his hands over all the microphones at a press conference, only to have it turn out that he had coronavirus.
It’s not just that Gobert’s positive test was what finally, after arduous debate and the implementation of various half-measures like closing locker rooms to reporters, got the sports world to shut down.
It’s that, to be forever known as the COVID guy, in a year when so many people acted so brazenly and so stupidly, then had it bite them in the ass, that’s a special level of idiot, and that’s what Gobert is.
Sympathizing with Gobert being the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus would have been a lot easier if he hadn’t made a mockery of it in the first place. While it’s true that none of us knew then how out of control it would get and how long the pandemic would last, it was still serious stuff nine months ago.
In a lot of ways, the Frenchman was as American as anyone in 2020, making a joke of something that he didn’t see as really threatening him, and only grasping the seriousness of the situation when it was too late. In a lot of ways, Gobert is a stand-in here for a nation that was pretty damn idiotic in the first couple of months of this year.
Gobert was totally wrong, but to be fair to him, he would change his idiotic behavior if given another chance. That is what separates the idiots from the assholes, like, say, Donald Trump, or the late Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who went maskless at many campaign events, pushed to “reopen the economy,” and then died of coronavirus after being elected. Not that those who continued to downplay the virus throughout 2020 aren’t also idiots, because they are, but Gobert does have “not being an asshole” going for him.
Thankfully, Gobert’s case of coronavirus wasn’t that serious, and there was no word of any deleterious effects for the people he infected. That also makes it a bit easier to laugh at him, as does the fact that his idiocy, by way of highlighting how easy it is to spread COVID-19, hastened the shutdown and saved lives in the spring. Unfortunately, because of the idiot assholes, the collective action taken in the spring wasn’t sufficient to prevent the deadliest months of coronavirus from happening in the fall.
Gobert is back playing basketball outside of a bubble now, even though the virus is more widespread now than it was at the time of his gaffe. That’s an indictment of the assholes. Gobert will just forever be an idiot, the man who managed, amid everything else that happened in 2020, to be the COVID guy.