After sweeping the Cavaliers in last season’s NBA Finals, retiring big guy David West gave a cryptic answer about the team facing unreported difficulties behind the scenes, the kind of thing that made their season more challenging than outsiders could comprehend. What’s more, according to West, only the especially strong bonds of friendship and professionalism between Warriors teammates kept this scandal from becoming public knowledge.
I pretty much assume every NBA team—for that matter, every team in every sport—deals with clashing personalities and resentment over money and frustration over roles and the odd teammate sleeping with another guy’s spouse. For it to rise to the level of shocking, it will need to be the kind of thing that would normally deal a devastating blow to a team’s locker room or on-court chemistry, especially when it’s apparently delicate enough to require secrecy. So when Sam Amick reported on Monday that the big secret challenge of the 2017–2018 Golden State Warriors had to do with a viral meningitis scare, I was ready for frightening details. Bring the juice, Sam!
An outside vendor who handled the team’s food on a daily basis contracted a contagious form of the disease, then survived a life-threatening challenge before eventually returning to work with the team.
This is scary! As the backdrop for a story about the terrifying health scare that nearly spoiled the championship aspirations of maybe the most stacked roster in NBA history, a caterer nearly dying from meningitis will do. But what did this mean for the actual Warriors? What “nightmarish” Outbreak-esque trials did they face? Sam, bring the damn juice.
Well, it was bad enough that the majority of Warriors players and some members of the basketball operations staff took vaccination shots in response to the medical threat.
Uh huh. I got a flu shot last month.
Worrisome enough that one team practice was relocated to nearby Oracle Arena while the team’s practice facility in downtown Oakland was, in essence, sanitized.
One time a customer pooped all over the escalator at my old job and we had to evacuate the premises.
Significant enough that the dining room at the practice facility that is only open to players, coaches, and basketball operations personnel was shut down for a short time for cleaning, with players eating elsewhere temporarily.
I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I eat elsewhere temporarily literally every other day, sometimes every other meal. But it’s not that the players were moderately inconvenienced for a couple days that makes this story sound silly—infectious, virulent diseases are scary, and if the players spent a couple days worrying that they might contract something awful, that is for sure pretty crappy. What makes it seem silly is the idea that a vendor getting sick and the team relocating some of its operations for a few days was a thing the players even needed to keep private, to say nothing of that effort proving or stretching their capacity for secrecy. What would have been the bad consequences if someone had reported on the meningitis scare during last regular season? Sources say a vendor with the team has contracted viral meningitis, and out of an abundance of caution the team has relocated its practice today to Oracle Arena while its regular practice facility is sanitized. Big fuckin’ deal. See if this sentence rings a little, hmm, suspect:
While West was also referencing problem areas like teammate dynamics and the occasional frustration and fatigue that comes with a perennial title contender playing “meaningless games” in the regular season, he said his words were mostly inspired by this unexpected and unwelcome medical situation.
Which seems more likely: that the team closed up ranks to prevent reporting about awkward dynamics between volatile and/or preening and image-obsessed teammates? Or that it closed up ranks to prevent reporting about a vendor getting sick and the team having to relocate dinner? I remain convinced that David West was referencing teammates squaring up in the locker room or bedding one another’s spouses or floating trade demands, and the meningitis scare is a red herring. Look at this:
“I grew up in the hood,” JaVale McGee, the former Warriors center who is now with the Lakers, told The Athletic. “Meningitis isn’t something I’m scared of.”
If the worst unreported trouble to strike last season’s Warriors really was that a man who is not one of them got very sick, I think it’s fair to say they really did have an easy-ass season.