Rudy Gobert Emerges With New Identity After Coronavirus

Jul 3, 2020, 3:58 PM | Updated: 11:27 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – While 2020 has been a trying experience for most people across the globe, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been uniquely pressed into finding a new identity, whether he wanted to or not. The Frenchman became patient zero of the coronavirus pandemic after he was the first NBA player to publicly test positive for COVID-19. While dealing with the virus, Gobert was forced to publicly address his private relationship with his Jazz co-star Donovan Mitchell.

Now, as he returns to the public eye, Gobert has emerged solemn but seemingly comfortable with his new identity and is ready to return to the floor with the Jazz. One day after Mitchell addressed his flawed relationship with Gobert, the Jazz center shared his perspective on his All-Star teammate.

Gobert and Mitchell’s Relationship

The morning after Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus in Oklahoma City, Mitchell also received a positive test. Shortly after the teammates tested positive, reports emerged that the relationship between the two All-Stars was “unsalvageable.” Reports circulated that Mitchell was frustrated with Gobert’s cavalier nature toward the virus.

After Mitchell addressed the status of the duo’s relationship, saying the pair were “good”, Gobert provided his own context to the pairing.

“No one expects it to be perfect, and it’s never gonna be perfect,” Gobert said. “I’ve never had perfect relationships with my teammates, or even my family members, pretty much anyone that’s around me.”

In Orlando, for the Jazz to reach their highest potential, the two players will have to rebuild a working relationship that has led them to three straight postseason appearances. Though Gobert and Mitchell’s relationship off the floor may be imperfect, the two appear to have found common ground on the court.

“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 said. “I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what we plan on continuing doing.”

Gobert On His New Identity After Coronavirus

Evolving from an unknown foreign prospect to a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Gobert has formed his reputation as an underdog. It’s provided the center with the competitiveness need to transform into one of the most imposing big men of his generation.

However, after testing positive for the virus, Gobert was no longer identified as the unsung superstar. The All-Star center was more famous for an illness he’d unknowingly contracted than he was for his hard work on the basketball floor.

“When the world is judging you and threatening you or sending you negative energy and stuff like that it’s, it’s something that I would say it’s not easy as a human being,” Gobert said.

As Gobert has grown accustomed to controlling opponents’ attacks with his immense size, the big man now appears to have found comfort in surrendering control of how he’s viewed outside of his inner circle.

“People just set you on the perception they have and the perception they get,” Gobert said of his new reputation. “Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action. People don’t really know you. […] People around me really know me and know who I am. And that’s what matters to me at the end of the day.”

Despite the change, Gobert doesn’t seem to resent his new identity.

“I think it was a great learning experience for me when I look back,” Gobert said. “It was a great learning experience and I feel like myself and I think everyone [came] out of that a different person.

Playing in Orlando

Having addressed his personal trials, Gobert can now turn his attention toward the Jazz return to basketball. The team will travel to Orlando next week, and reopen the NBA season on July 30 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“I’m happy now that I’m in a good place,” Gobert said. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team.”

While Gobert may have been forced to find comfort in his new identity, his goals on the basketball floor remain the same.

“The competitiveness is back,” Gobert said of the team’s return. “I am ready to try to go out there and try to win a championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as at team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”


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