March 11 2020 Episode 1

March 11 2020 Americans woke up on March 11 2020 in one reality and, by the time they went to sleep that night, they were living with a new one. Hear the story of the day everything changed — the day the NBA shut down and the pandemic became real — as told by those who lived it.

Transcript

March 11 2020 

 

[ABC
News Anchor: Good morning, everybody.]

[WABC 7
News Anchor: Good morning, everybody.] 

[NPR 

News Anchor: Joe Biden is likely feeling pretty good this morning.]

 

[CNN

News Anchor: Resounding victories in four states last night.]

 

[NPR
News Anchor: That includes Michigan, that state’s 125 delegates were considered a must win for Senator Bernie Sanders to keep up in the race.]

[ABC
News Anchor: Joe Biden, this morning, says he’s unstoppable.] 

[CNN
News Anchor: And a good Wednesday to you. Here we go again with another warm day slated across portions of the southern United States.]

[WNYC
News Anchor: A duo of Russian pranksters say they duped Prince Harry into believing he was on the phone with climate activist Greta Thunberg and her father.]


[ABC
News Anchor: The stunning twist on the grand finale of The Bachelor.]

[ESPN
News Anchor: There’s been plenty of talks surrounding where Tom Brady will play next season and why Tampa is another realistic landing spot.
News Anchor: Brooklyn goes into Staples Center and knocks off the Lakers 104-102. The second largest upset loss for the Lakers all season.]

[WNYC
News Anchor: Russian lawmakers have approved legislation that could let President Vladimir Putin stay in office until 2036.]

[ABC
News Anchor: Judgment day for Harvey Weinstein. The convicted rapist and former Hollywood producer faces up to 29 years in prison.]

[NPR
News Anchor: Now to the other big story we’re covering: the coronavirus.]

[NPR 

News Anchor: Good morning.]

 

[WNYC

News Anchor: Good morning.]

 

[NPR

News Anchor: Good morning.]

 

[WNYC

News Anchor: Good morning.]


[NPR

News Anchor: Good morning.]

 

[CNN

News Anchor: And good morning, everyone.]

 

[KWTV9 

News Anchor: Good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday. We call it hump day.]

 

[CNN

News Anchor: A good Wednesday to you.]

 

[ABC 

News Anchor: Good morning, everybody.]

[CNN

News Anchor: Welcome to your new day. It is Wednesday, March 11th.]

 

[WWLS 98.1 FM
Radio Host: Welcome to your Wednesday, March 11th.]

DORIS BURKE: March 11th.

SARAH TODD & GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: March 11th.

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: March 11th.

EVANDER PITTMAN & SCOTT VAN PELT: March 11th.

ROB HENNIGAN: March 11th, 2020.

[NPR
News Anchor: It’s Wednesday, March 11th. Don’t worry, be happy, Bobby McFerrin turns
          70 years old today.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: I usually get up five o’clock, 5:15. I go downstairs, grab some juice, you know, make an egg, go into my home office, and just figure out what, what emails came in overnight. My name is Dr. Anthony Fauci and I’m the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. By the time my egg gets finished and I’m ready to eat it and run, I close my computer, get in the car, and drive to work. I was scheduled to appear before the Congressional House Oversight and Reform hearing. I’ve testified at hundreds and hundreds of hearings, so it’s not a big deal for me. I knew I could answer all the questions so I didn’t get particularly carried away about it. 

[WNYC
News Anchor: 6:04. 45 degrees. Fair skies right now in New York city. And we do expect…]

[WABC 7
News Anchor: The MTA is ramping up it’s disinfecting efforts as they try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.]

[WNYC
News Anchor: Harvey Weinstein is set to be sentenced in Manhattan Criminal Court today.]

BYRON PITTS: My name is Byron Pitts. I’m the co-anchor of Nightline at ABC News based in New York. That day the big news that I was anticipating was the sentencing of Harvey Weinstein. 

 

[WABC 7
News Anchor: The former movie executive is facing up to 29 years in prison for the third degree rape of actress Jessica Mann and for sexually assaulting former production assistant, Mimi Haleyi.]

 

BYRON PITTS: By this time we knew he was guilty. And now the question was how severe would the punishment be? What statement would be made? Not just to Harvey Weinstein and to his victims, but to all who were concerned and felt touched by the Me Too Movement.

 

[CNN
News Anchor: How about this? Dallas climbing up to the middle eighties…]

[ESPN
News Anchor: Tonight, our NBA Wednesday doubleheader tips off in Dallas.
Luka and the Mavs hosting Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets at eight eastern.]

DORIS BURKE: The day of March 11th I slept in because I was not well. My name is Doris Burke and I am a basketball analyst for ESPN.

 

[ESPN
News Anchor: We’ve got to transition to Dallas where our very own Doris Burke is. She’ll be on the call for the game tonight between the Denver Nuggets and the Dallas Mavericks.]

DORIS BURKE: I have a fairly standard game day routine. I get up. I do some reading and some preparation. I’ll make a decision early on the day whether I’m going to work out prior to the production meeting or after and I knew I wasn’t working out. And so I just sort of prepped and I relaxed. I thought about laying down, but I thought, “Don’t lay down because you might sleep through the production lunch.”


[ESPN
Show Host: Today, the NBA will hold a conference call with all of its owners to discuss the possibility of moving games or playing them without fans.]

[ESPN
Show Host: As the severity of the coronavirus intensifies each day, the NBA is considering stricter measures to protect its players.]

[ESPN
News Anchor: The Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments.]

[WABC 7
News Anchor: March Madness is going on as scheduled, at least for now.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: I’m Scott Van Pelt. I host the midnight edition of SportsCenter. I often refer to myself as a swimming pool. I have a shallow end and a deep end. I spend a lot of time in the shallow end paying attention to sports, uh, ‘cause it’s my job. Also, I like them. I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland, I went to school at the University of Maryland, and not surprisingly, I view things through this prism of Maryland. Maryland was supposed to play in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Tournament, they were waiting for Friday night. Who is it going to be? I remember I had a friend that was going to go, and then they decided not to go. And I said, “You know what? You shouldn’t because they’re never going to play.” And he said, “What’re you talking about?” I said, “They’ll never get to Friday.”

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: My name is Kevin Stitt and I’m Governor of the great state of Oklahoma. 


[KWTV9
News Anchor: It’s 64 here in Oklahoma City.]

[KWTV9 

News Anchor: A Netflix documentary about Oklahoma’s self-proclaimed tiger king, Joe Exotic, is set to release this month.]

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: March 11th. It was a normal day. We were going about our business. We were gearing up all the pools, we were doing March Madness.

 

[WWLS 98.1 FM
Radio Host: Big 12 tournament starts today. Oklahoma State plays Iowa State. I expect them to win that game and then…
Radio Host: A “six-o-clocker.”
Radio Host …get ready for Kansas.]

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: Kansas was who we were… I was predicting. Bill Self is an Oklahoma boy, by the way.

 

[WWLS 98.1 FM
Radio Host: And then you got the Thunder at seven. Huge game against Utah.] 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: This COVID thing… 

[ABC

News Anchor: This morning, New York ordering the nation’s first containment zone.] 


[ABC

News Anchor: The governor deploying the national guard to New Rochelle, a suburban coronavirus hotspot North of Manhattan.]

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: ….it was still something we were watching happening unfold in New York and California. 

 

[ABC
News Anchor: There’s growing frustration on that cruise ship docked in
California. Getting everyone off the ship is taking longer than expected.]

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: I think I was just still unsure. Is this really going to hit Oklahoma? How serious do we need to take it as a state? We had two cases at that point, think we’d had our first case five days before March 11th.

 

[KWGS
News Anchor: a woman in her twenties who recently traveled to Italy is likely Tulsa County and Oklahoma’ second case of COVID-19.]

FRANKIE J: We had a conversation with the driver and the driver was telling us that there wasn’t many cases of the coronavirus in Oklahoma City. I want to say there was only like two in Tulsa but none at the time in Oklahoma City. The driver was like, “Well it hasn’t hit us here,” you know, “It hasn’t hit us here, yet.”

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: We travel a lot. We’re in the music industry.
Uber Driver: Oh, really? What kind of music?
Frankie J: I’m doing the halftime show for the Thunder today.
Uber Driver: Awesome.]

FRANKIE J: Hello, my name is Frankie J and I’m an artist.

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: It’s going to be great. I’m excited about it.
Uber Driver: So, what kind of music?
Frankie J: RnB.]

FRANKIE J: Well, the Thunder staff asked us to go to the clinic.


[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: Good morning, today’s a brand new day, and we’re off…to the doctor.]

FRANKIE J: And we had to do it, like if we did not do it, I was not going to be able to perform or my guys would not be able to walk into the arena.

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: Can you believe we got to go to a clinic right now and get checked for
          coronavirus? Who would have thought?]

 

FRANKIE J: They did not do the whole swab, you know, up the nose thing. All they did was just temperature, heartbeat, and, you know, our breathing.

 

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J (singing “Suga Suga” from phone): I just got checked, I just got checked. And I’m good and I’m fine and we all about to…]

FRANKIE J: That’s when we started thinking like, “Okay, this is definitely gonna be a different rodeo here.”

 

SARAH TODD: My name’s Sarah Todd. I’m the Utah Jazz Beat Reporter at the Deseret News. I’d gotten into Oklahoma City late on the night of March 10th.

[ABC
Participant: It’s not, you know, it’s not going to work. Would we want it to work? Yes…]

SARAH TODD: I know that I went to sleep late catching up on The Bachelor. 

[ABC
Contestant: I’m telling you, I am telling you that I love Madison and that should be enough.]

SARAH TODD: And so I remember getting the texts that we didn’t need to go to the arena. Instead, they were going to do their media availability from the team hotel. And I remember thinking, “I can sleep for like 10 more minutes.” Rudy Gobert is one of two stars on that Jazz team and so he’s one of the guys that we talk to every single day, but he was not available because him and Emmanuel Mudiay were not feeling well that day and so he didn’t take part in shoot around. So, we talked to Quin Snyder, the head coach, and Donovan Mitchell that morning. Myself, Tony Jones and Andy Larson, the other beat reporters for the Jazz, we were sort of discussing like, “Oh, Twitter’s going to go a little crazy if we say that Rudy’s sick,” you know, “Maybe we should ask PR if they can tell us, just give us sort of a definitive note, is this coronavirus? Is it not?” And so we did ask and they said, “We can’t confirm or deny anything. We can’t say exactly what it is. He’s sick, that’s it.”

ROB HENNIGAN: My name is Rob Hennigan. I’m the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Thunder. Probably right after shoot around, I want to say, someone from the Jazz actually made us aware that a player in their travel party was presenting symptoms. There’s only so much you can share when it comes to a medical situation.  We didn’t know who it was or if it was coronavirus.

JORDAN CLARKSON: I remember at the brunch after shoot around, our coaches and the training staff and our medical staff all at one table literally just like, in like, deep talks, and us kind of being like, “Yo, what’s going on?” I’m Jordan Clarkson, sixth man for the Utah Jazz. We was kinda scared ‘cause the information that we got from the team was like, “They were going to get tested for like flu and everything else, first.” But they were like, “If somebody comes up negative with those, they’ll get tested for corona.” Emmanuel had got, he was like, uh, I think he was positive for the flu or something. And I think Rudy tested negative on all those tests. 

RUDY GOBERT: I’m Rudy Gobert and I play for the Utah Jazz. The first day just waking up with a little cold, light fever just like I had a thousand times before in my life. When we found out that I tested negative for the flu and you know that kind of viruses, the medical staff and all of us thought it was better for me… it was smart to go and try to see if it wasn’t the coronavirus. So, we went to the Oklahoma City Medical Center and got me tested for it.

 

[ABC
News Anchor: As anxiety mounts, medical professionals and potential patients sounding the alarm that there aren’t enough testing kits to keep up with the growing numbers.]

[ABC
News Anchor: More schools and universities are closing. Harvard University is giving students five days to move out of the dorms.]

[ABC
News Anchor: Popular music festival Coachella postponed until October.]

[ABC
News Anchor: Major companies like Apple and Google encouraging their employees to work from home.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: At that time, there were a little bit more than a thousand cases in the United States and 29 deaths. It became a big emergency. 

[CNN
News Anchor: Right now, the nation’s top infectious disease expert is testifying on Capitol Hill.]

[C-SPAN
U.S. Representative: I’m trying to help the American people understand where to appropriately set their gauge…
Dr. Anthony Fauci: I think you set their gauges at this is a really serious problem that we have to take seriously. People always say, “Well, you know, the flu does this, the flu does that.” The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality of ten times that.
U.S. Representative: I think one of the basketball tournaments, I think, for the Ivy League, they’ve cut off their tournament all together. On the other, nobody talks about, you know, every night they play like, I don’t know, eight to ten NBA games and nobody talks about shutting them down. Uh, is the NBA underreacting or is the Ivy League overreacting?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it.]

 

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: I gave very serious warnings about what was ahead. 

[C-SPAN

U.S. Representative: Is the worst to come Dr. Fauci?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Yes it is. Bottom line: it is going to get worse.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: And right away, click, click, click, click, you know, C-SPAN is going crazy. Everybody is tweeting that Fauci says it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

[C-SPAN

U.S. Representative: I want to inform members that we have a change in schedule.] 

 

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: We whispered in their ear that I have to leave at 11:45 instead of 12. 

[C-SPAN

U.S. Representative: President Trump and Vice President Pence have called our witnesses to an emergency meeting at the white house.]

 

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: People thought that the President was looking at the C-SPAN version and said, “Get Tony the hell out of there and bring him to the Oval Office” because I was giving a doomsday scenario, which wasn’t the case. There was a pre-scheduled meeting at the White House and they were waiting for me.

 

[CNN

News Anchor: I have got to jump to breaking news, just came in, they’re just telling me in my ear, this just into CNN, 23 years in prison. That is the sentence that has been handed down for Harvey Weinstein.]

BYRON PITTS: We were shaping the show at Nightline. We were going to focus on this one Harvey Weinstein story for our entire broadcast. 

 

[CNN
News Anchor: Miriam Haleyi, one of the accusers stood before the court today and talked about what she had gone through. For the last two years, her life has been nothing but paranoia believing there would be retaliation against her. And she said that she is so grateful for the conviction because now he will not offend against anyone else.]

BYRON PITTS: I live within walking distance of the office, which is a… sometimes a blessing and sometimes not. And so I was going to go home like I usually do have lunch, take a nap. I probably had like my coat on, my Yankees cap in my hand, and I’m about ready to get out the building when we start hearing word that there might be this big announcement from the World Health Organization.

 

[W.H.O.

W.H.O. Official: We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.]

 

BYRON PITTS: I recognized that my day, our day, at Nightline was about to change. 

 

[CNN 

News Anchor: Breaking news: the World Health Organization officially declaring the coronavirus a pandemic.]

 

[NPR

News Anchor: The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.] 


[NPR
News Anchor: A pandemic.]

[CNN
News Anchor: A pandemic.]


[W.H.O.

W.H.O. Official: Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.]

[NPR
News Anchor: It’s confirming more than 120,000 cases in 114
countries on six continents.]

 

[CNN
News Anchor: This is a major, major announcement.]

 

[CNN
News Anchor: New developments in the white house response to the coronavirus pandemic. We are learning about the possibility of an Oval Office address from the President of the United States.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: As you know, the President’s got this interesting relationship with me. He either loves me or he hates me. But that day, I think he loved me. The President wanted me to come to the oval office at 12:30 for a meeting about travel restrictions that were being discussed. At the meeting we had Bob Redfield, Debbie Birx, Alex Azar. They had argued we should restrict all travel from the 26 European countries that are in the Schengen countries. That’s the first time I heard the word, I didn’t know what Schengen meant. That’s apparently the European union countries, not the UK. So, we went in and we presented to the President that we needed to shut down the Schengen countries because this would be a real problem of infection. Now, the economists were getting very concerned this would cause not only a recession but a depression. 

[ABC
News Anchor: One executive says the coronavirus could have a bigger impact on the airline industry than 9/11.]

[NPR
News Anchor: An 11 year bull market that survived hurricanes, a trade war, and political upheaval was finally brought to an end today by the coronavirus. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell more than 1400 points.]

[ABC
News Anchor: We are officially in a bear market. The Dow and the S&P 500 have wiped out more than five trillion dollars in value in just the last couple of weeks.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: The President. He asked a lot of good questions. Many of them were directed to me and, quite interestingly, he agreed. Even though he was concerned about the economy, he said he was more concerned about infections coming into the country. The President turned to Steve Miller and Jared and said, “Okay, get a speech ready. We’re going to make this announcement.” 

[ESPN
Show Host: We got some breaking news for you related to coronavirus. The city of San Francisco has followed the lead of neighboring Santa Clara County and banned all gatherings of a thousand people or more for two weeks. That ban will include Warriors games which means, yes, the Warriors plan to play tomorrow night’s game without fans.]

[ESPN 

Talk Show Host: So the NBA, the first league forced to make a move to combat coronavirus fears. Ramona Shelburne, up until about one second ago you were working the phone and through our tape time right now we’re hearing owners in the league are meeting.]

RAMONA SHELBURNE: I had been trying to text, you know, different owners and different team presidents trying to find out what they had said, but the expectation was the thing they were going to talk about was the potential of playing games with a limited amount of fans. 

 

[ESPN
NBA Reporter: There’s an increasing belief among teams throughout the league, uh, that’s where they will all eventually end up here with no fans in arenas. They’re not quite there yet. That’s part of what’s being discussed.]

RAMONA SHELBURNE: And that’s what I thought we were going to be covering that night. When are they shutting down games in LA or games in New York to fans? That’s what seemed like the furthest it would go that night.

 

[ESPN
News Anchor: Back to the NBA. Tonight’s games, they’re being played as scheduled including a doubleheader here on ESPN. At eight Eastern Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets travel to Dallas to take on Luka and the Mavs. For more on the NBA tonight, Tom Rinaldi joins us court side from the big game in Dallas and Tom, what can you tell us?
Tom Rinaldi: Sage, in essence, this could be an effective snapshot in time of the future to come…..]

TOM RINALDI: I remember we got to the arena and the earliest fans who showed up were receiving little bottles of hand sanitizer.

[ESPN
Tom Rinaldi: A different kind of night for fans arriving at American Airlines Arena, receiving hand sanitizer…]

TOM RINALDI: I thought, “Wow.” I mean, how different is that? 

DORIS BURKE: Here we are in a building in Dallas packed with people. 

TOM RINALDI: They had 20,000 announced. Yet another sellout.

DORIS BURKE: And I was taking pictures with fans. I can’t tell you the number of photos that people stopped for and, you know, you’re, you’re leaning in and you’re smiling and you’re engaging with the fans because they’re as excited for the game as you are. The whole feel around that game, I can only describe it as strange. Instead of asking assistant coaches and players what they thought of the matchup, I was asking everyone how much a part of the conversation amongst the players is the virus? There was just this feel around the game in every circumstance that made it feel like something was coming. 

[ESPN
News Anchor: In Oklahoma City, the Utah Jazz, getting set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. As it currently stands right now, Utah and OKC would meet in the first round of the playoffs.]

JORDAN CLARKSON: I’m getting on the last bus to the arena and I had my Pedialyte in my hand that I was drinking trying to get hydrated for the game. I still don’t see those guys, Rudy and Emanuel. You know, we’re all in a group message texting each other like, “Yo, what’s going on? What’s goin on?”  Like, “Yo, y’all coming to the game, y’all coming to the game?” Rudy texts back and just said like, “Oh, I’m waiting.”

RUDY GOBERT: The whole day in Oklahoma City and the day of the game I actually stayed in my room and until we were gonna know if I had it or not. The goal was really for me to hopefully get the results before the game and if the results were negative I was gonna play the game.

[sound fx car radio tuning to station]

[WWLS 98.1 FM
Radio Host: You excited about the Thunder game tonight? I think there’s gonna be a good game tonight.]

EVANDER PITTMAN: I have socks I wear to the games. It’s one of those things where if you don’t have something like that on, you might be the reason that the team loses. My name is Evander Pittman. I have been a Thunder fan since the Thunder has been here in Oklahoma. You can’t say anything bad about the Thunder, especially around my uncle. I always ride with him down there to the game and we’ll listen to our local sports radio show about what’s going on with the game that night.

[WWLS 98.1 FM
Radio Host: Well, he’s….number one, Gobert’s questionable with an illness. So, I don’t know that Gobert’s going to play tonight.
Radio Host: That would be huge for the Thunder. And if the Thunder win tonight they’re in, they’re in the four seed, right?
Radio Host: That’s right.
Radio Host: This is a big game. This is a big game.]

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: I went home at around five and my commerce department called and said, “Governor, we really need you to come over” and meet this company they were hosting at the Thunder game. So, I grabbed my ten year old son Remington and I said, “Hey, grab your basketball and your Sharpie, we’re going to stop by the Thunder game tonight and we’ll get you some autographs.”

 

EVANDER PITTMAN: Once you go through the little curtains into the stadium it’s like walking into mayhem. 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma
Crowd: OKC! OKC! ]

EVANDER PITTMAN: Everyone was ready for the game. Pumped up. It was packed. 

JORDAN CLARKSON: Oklahoma City, off rip, is like one of the hardest arenas to play in. They’re very loud. The crowd was very into it and, you know, electric.

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: There’s a restaurant there in the first level of where the Thunder play. And we walked over, I sat down, and started visiting with this company and my cell phone rang. So, this is about 6:50 and I looked at it and I was in the middle of conversation and it was my commissioner of health and I turned it over. I was gonna ignore it. And I thought, “Oh man, he normally doesn’t call me on my cell phone.” So I told them, I said, “Excuse me, just a second.” I stepped away from the table. And my commissioner of health said, “Governor.” He said, “I need to tell you something.” He said, “The Utah Jazz. One of their players got sick. And so we tested him and he tested positive for COVID.” And he said, “Where are you at?” I said, “Well, I’m at the Thunder game.” And I said, “Who knows?” And he said, “Nobody knows at this point, you’re my first phone call.” I said, “okay, well stand by.” I told my security, “Hey, go get Clay Bennett,” the owner of the Thunder. I said, “I need to meet him in a conference room right now.” I mean, this is like 6:55, tip off’s at seven.

[Fox Sports Oklahoma
P.A. Announcer: Thunder Starting Lineup announced in Spanish]

SARAH TODD: Everything was going as normal. Music was playing.

EVANDER PITTMAN: Everybody’s up jumping up, you know, screaming.

SARAH TODD: T-shirts were being handed out to fans. The starters were introduced.

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

P.A. Announcer: Chriiiisssss Pauuuuuuuuuulllll!!!!]

 

ROB HENNIGAN: There was a small group of us that were meeting down in Sam Presti, our general manager’s office. Sam and the governor and Clay and a few folks from our business office and basketball ops in the bowels of Chesapeake Arena trying to figure out, you know, what the heck’s going on.

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT:  So we got Adam Silver on the phone and Bennett was saying, “Hey, what’s, what’s NBA’s policy on this.” And they said, “Well, we don’t, we don’t really have one. It’s a state issue. What’s the state’s position?” 

 

ROB HENNIGAN: You know, there was this, like, heightened sense of, “Okay, we really have to make a quick decision, but we have to make the right decision.” 

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: So, Clay Bennett, Adam Silver, our commissioner of health, and then Sam Presti, the four of us, made the decision. Hey, we probably need to call this out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of Oklahomans and the players that are out there. 

 

BILLY DONOVAN: Hi, I’m Billy Donovan, former coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I would say that for the most part, everything was all the way normal all the way up to the tip. 

JORDAN CLARKSON: So, we were all locked in going through lay up lines and then you hear the buzzer ring and we’re all kinda huddled up. 

 

EVANDER PITTMAN: They were literally getting ready to tip the game off, like the ref was standing there with the ball in his hand. Everybody’s standing around in the circle getting ready to jump off the ball and you see the team doctor run out of the tunnel. 

 

BILLY DONOVAN: I saw our head medical guy, Donnie Strack, I just saw him run across the floor.

 

ROB HENNIGAN: And I remember Sam just turning to Donnie and me and saying, “You know, don’t, don’t let the game start. Don’t let them tip the ball.” And we just, we sprinted out there.

BILLY DONOVAN: And as that happened, Rob Hennigan, he came running across the floor. 

 

ROB HENNIGAN: Donnie and I got with the officials and just explained the situation and the officials were totally wide-eyed.

 

BILLY DONOVAN: And the officials basically held both teams at their benches.

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

Sports Broadcaster: We see officials conferring prior to the start of this game.]

 

SARAH TODD: It felt like someone had just hit the slow-mo button because the game wasn’t starting.

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

Sports Broadcaster: We see both head coaches now talking with the officials, Quin Snyder and Billy Donovan. We don’t know what they’re talking about.]

 

BILLY DONOVAN: The officials brought us to half court. They were like, “Listen, we got word from the league. We need to postpone the game.” And I’m like, “Okay, what is going on?” And then Quin at that point in time just said, “Hey, listen, we think that Rudy Gobert may have a positive test for COVID-19.” And I’m like, “COVID-19. What’s COVID-19?” And he’s like, “The coronavirus.”  

 

EVANDER PITTMAN: We sit right behind the Thunder’s bench and you see the coaches; they have, like, a look of worry on their faces. 

 

BILLY DONOVAN: The officials said, “Listen, we have got to stop this game and they’re waiting for more clarity on the results so the best thing to do is to go back into the locker room and wait, you know, for further instructions.”

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

Sports Broadcaster: And you see the teams heading back to the locker room.] 

 

BILLY DONOVAN: As I was walking off the court, I think the P.A. announcer just made a statement that the game was being delayed.

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

P.A. Announcer: We’re waiting on league confirmation to start the game.]

 

SARAH TODD: I’ve been covering the NBA for eight years. I’ve never heard of anybody needing confirmation to start a game. And I’ve definitely never heard of it not coming through.

 

JORDAN CLARKSON: We just walked back to the locker room and it was like, “Wow, who has it?”

 

RUDY GOBERT: I was in my hotel room in Oklahoma City and I was getting ready to watch my team play against the Thunder. And when I saw that some doctors ran on the floor and stopped the game, that’s when I knew that something was going on and I mean I was a little nervous. I was waiting to get the call and a few seconds later I got the call from the trainer and he told me that I tested positive. 

 

MARCO ALFANDARY: Our first game of our double header was Mavericks-Nuggets. My name is Marco Alfandary, I am the producer of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt. Wednesdays are unique in that this year we started doing halftimes of both games for the doubleheader.

 

[ESPN
News Anchor: Luka and the Mavs hosting Nikola Jogic and the Nuggets at eight eastern. Then, Zion and the pelicans taking on Buddy Hield and the Kings.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: We meet every night at 5:30 eastern time, talk about what we want to do, stroll over to the cafeteria; grab some dinner.

MARCO ALFANDARY: Scott has his Diet Cokes and his Hundred Grand bars that he likes to get. I like Flaming Hot Cheetos.

 

SCOTT VAN PELT: We sit in a…we call it the “fishbowl.” And so, if you can picture a wall with one, two, three, four, maybe five monitors and then one wall with a giant television. We’re sitting in that room that night and you’re looking up and you’re watching and now at some point we look up and we’re like, “Well, what are they doing? What’s going on in Oklahoma City? They’re supposed to be playing. Why aren’t they playing?” Not too long after that it’s, “You got to get up to the set. Woj is coming on with you.” 

MARCO ALFANDARY: He doesn’t bring his phone. He’s not watching anything down there as he’s getting set. When he’s down in the studio, I’m really his eyes and ears. 

 

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt (off-air): All right, so hold on. Marco, what are we going to do here? is the…?]

SCOTT VAN PELT: Everything is from from his lips to my ears to out of my mouth to whoever we’re talking to.

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt (off-air): He doesn’t….okay, okay.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: And we were kind of holding hands in the dark tiptoeing our way towards who knew, who knew what.

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: We’ll get back to the second quarter of our game in just a moment. I’m Scott Van Pelt. Some breaking news out of Oklahoma city.]

SARAH TODD: In that moment, without the team on the floor, when the game is supposed to be starting, they just started throwing everything they had at the court. 

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

Thunder Game Host: Wave your hands in the air if you want a t-shirt and you just don’t care!]

 

SARAH TODD: There were t-shirt cannons being shot off. The mascot was out. There were dancers that came out.

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

Thunder Game Host: Please make some noise and put your hands together for the

junior hip hop dance team: the Raindrops!!
Sports Broadcaster: So in the meantime the fans will wait. We will wait.]

 

SARAH TODD: A local reporter sitting to my right pointed to a tweet on his computer screen and it said that law enforcement was on its way to the arena to evacuate it. The first thing that I thought was, “Is something bad happening in the building? Is this a bomb threat?”

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: We didn’t want to panic anyone, so how do we dismiss the stadium? Was Clay Bennett gonna make the announcement? And his team was like, “No, no, no, no, you’re not going to make the announcement.” Clay said, “Do you want to go out and make the announcement, Governor?” And my team was like, “No, no, no, we’re not. You’re not going to say anything, Governor.” And so a couple of guys, they said, “Well, how about if we pull the fire alarm?” And Clay just went berserk on the two people that said that like that was the stupidest thing he’s ever heard of. We ultimately just said, “No, let’s just have the announcer do it.” They got their halftime entertainment to kind of come forward and nobody really knew what was going on. 

 

[Frankie J Tape
Coordinator: Are you good,Frankie?

Frankie J: Yeah!

Coordinator: Okay.

Frankie J team member: Well, you’ll never forget this game.

Coordinator: You’ll never forget this.]

 

FRANKIE J: They’re like, “Alright! Before the game starts you’re going out!”

 

[Frankie J Tape
P.A. Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen put your hands together. Frankie J!]

 

EVANDER PITTMAN: They announced it was Frankie J and I was like, “Wow, this guy’s good.”

 

SARAH TODD: It kind of made things seem even more unstable because it was like, “Why is this happening?”

 

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J:[01:19]  What up Oklahoma City!]

 

FRANKIE J: All these different emotions are running through. I am nervous. My mind is scattered. 

 

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: Singing]

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: Clay and I went out and sat on the front row there at his normal seats, and we’re waiting for the entertainment to finish and wait for the announcement. I remember looking over at Clay and I was with my son and he was sitting there next to his wife and I could just see his face. He didn’t want to disappoint his fans and let his fans leave. I remember his wife was kinda rubbing his back and, you know, “It was going to be okay” to her husband. And he was very somber in the moment.

 

[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: Singing.]

 

ROB HENNIGAN: I don’t know, that may have been one of the first pre-game halftime shows in NBA history and he did a heck of a job with it.

 

FRANKIE J: Well the last song that I performed, I think it was “Suga Suga.” You know, the crowd is singing along to it. 


[Frankie J Tape
Frankie J: Thank you so much Oklahoma City!]

FRANKIE J: And as I’m stepping out, that’s when I hear the voice. 

 

[Frankie J Tape
Fans: Frankie J!!!

P.A. Announcer: Fans, due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed. 

Fans: Boooooo!

P.A. Announcer: You’re all safe, take your time in leaving the stadium, we’re all safe….]

 

FRANKIE J: That’s when I was like, “Oh man, this is not happening!” I literally had to be escorted out ‘cause we didn’t know how the crowd was going to react. 

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma
P.A. Announcer: We are all safe.]

 

SARAH TODD: No one feels safe when they hear that, especially in a building with 20,000 people.

 

[Fox Sports Oklahoma

P.A. Announcer: Please drive home safely. Good night, fans.]

 

EVANDER PITTMAN: To myself I’m like, “Man, sports is over with,” like, “This may be the end of sports for the rest of the year.”

 

RAMONA SHELBURNE: I called my editor. “What’s going on with this Gobert thing? Does he have it?” And she’s like, “That’s what we’re hearing.” And I was like, “Holy shit. He has it?” Like, “Oh my God.” It didn’t take long for you to realize that if Rudy Gobert was positive there was a chance that just about every single player on every single team could have been exposed just based on who they had all played in the last 14 days.


[ABC

News Anchor: Good evening, we’re coming on the air right now because President
Trump is about to address the nation from the Oval Office on the coronavirus crisis.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: I helped in reviewing the speech. By the time we finished it was pretty late. And I got home essentially just in time, but the adrenaline and the energy of having gone head-to-head with the President, having helped with the editing of the speech, getting my ass back to the NIH, I was exhausted. My wife puts together some food and a glass of beer. I remember it was Lagunitas IPA. And I sat down. I watched the speech. 

[CNN
President Donald Trump: My fellow Americans: Tonight, I want to speak with you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and is now spreading throughout the world. After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans. To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, the President’s speech writers took some stuff out that I wanted to be kept in. They kept in some stuff that I wanted to take out.

[CNN
President Donald Trump: This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: But at the end of the day, it was a reasonable speech that reflected what the discussions were in the Oval Office.

[CNN
President Donald Trump: Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you.]

[CNN
News Anchor: Now, other than a declaration of war or major terrorist event, in a generation, we have not heard a message from a president as serious as the one that was just delivered by President Donald John Trump. The headline: for the next 30 days no travel from Europe to the United States.]

[CNN
News Anchor: That is stunning. That is going to cause major disruptions.]

[ESPN Radio
Radio Host: Our president is suspending all travel from Europe the next 30 days?
Radio Host: Just announced that, yeah. You know what it is–
Radio Host: We thought we had a plan for a show tonight and it keeps getting hijacked every 20 seconds.]

RAMONA SHELBURNE: And then all of a sudden it was Rudy Gobert tests positive. President Trump gives his address. Oh my god! Tom Hanks? Like what? Tom Hanks has it? How the hell did Tom Hanks get it? 

[ABC
News Anchor: This is surprising, George. Just coming across Twitter that Tom and Rita Hanks down in Australia announced that they were feeling run down with some body aches, fever, fatigue. They were tested and both tested positive for the coronavirus.]

[ESPN Radio
Radio Host: Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson down there in Australia.
Radio Host: We just found out.]

BYRON PITTS: So about this time, I go down to the studio. It’s usually just myself and the floor director, Michele Mayer. She is a legendary figure in our business. She was Peter Jennings’ floor director when he was the anchor of World News Tonight. She’s seen a lot of bad things happen on her watch three or four times. She’s looking at her phone. And then she says something like, “Oh shit.” And when someone like her says that you think, “Uh-oh, I better pay attention.” And I think she said again, “Oh shit, the NBA just suspended its season.”

[ABC
News Anchor: The NBA has just suspended its season until further notice.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: There’s a moment where in your ear your producer says, “All right, the NBA’s just suspended the season. The season is suspended. Woj is going to join us.” And in your head you’re hearing that and you’re going, “Wait, what?” 

[ESPN
NBA Reporter: Rudy Gobert has tested positive for the coronavirus. Starting tomorrow, NBA play is suspended. This is the last night of NBA games for the foreseeable future.]

[ESPN Radio
Radio Host: Woj reporting that hey, NBA has shut down. This, Freddie…
Radio Host: …is huge.
Radio Host: This is …I can’t. We cannot emphasize how big this is. There’s no levity you can bring to this. There’s no nothing.]

[MSNBC
News Anchor: The odd role that basketball is playing in our national confrontation of the reality of the coronavirus crisis.]

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: It’s, “Oh my God.” The NBA is such an ingrained part of American culture that it almost is sacrosanct. To be able to suspend that means something really, really serious is going on.

BYRON PITTS: At that point at Nightline people who are working on Harvey Weinstein cast it aside. You’re now working on the pandemic.

[CNN
News Anchor: This is a time to be honest with one another. We are in a new normal.]
[CNN
News Anchor: This is getting real for a lot of people.]

[CNN
News Anchor: This is real and this is happening.]

[CNBC
News Anchor: This made this real.]

[CNN
News Anchor: This just got real.]

[CNN
News Anchor: It’s going to be very real and for a while. Stay with us…]

[ESPN
Sports Broadcaster: We welcome you back courtside. Ryan Ruocco alongside Doris Burke.]

DORIS BURKE: Once we received the news, your ability to concentrate on the action in front of you became distinctly hard. I mean, it was hard. But then you have to come to grips with the fact that you still are on national television and that you still have a responsibility to your viewers.

[ESPN
Sports Broadcaster: It’s gonna be a jump.
Doris Burke: Let’s watch Luka Doncic whose normal pick and roll partner is Kristaps Porzingas. Tonight, it’s been this guy.]

DORIS BURKE: This is where the play by play’s job becomes an intricate and delicate dance.

IAN GRUCA: My name’s Ian Gruca. I’m a NBA producer for ESPN. Jeff Evers, our director, you  know, he knew once that moment was announced that, honestly, the probably highest profile person in that building was Mark Cuban. You know, probably the highest profile owner in our league. And I remember he told our camera six, “Hey, stay on Mark Cuban.” 

[ESPN
Sports Broadcaster: And you could see right here the reaction from Mark Cuban when he got the news looking at his phone.]

TOM RINALDI: It is one of the most indelible images I’ve ever seen.  

DORIS BURKE: The absolute shock that crosses Mark Cuban’s face. 

TOM RINALDI: It’s a man in a chair looking down at his phone and whiplashing back into his seat.

IAN GRUCA: My first thought to Tom was, “Can we get Mark Cuban?” 

[ESPN
Tom Rinaldi: Mark, first reaction. We got the shot of you reacting on the phone and seeing it. First reaction and thought when you learned that the season’s been suspended?
Mark Cuban: This is crazy. This can’t be true. I mean, it’s not within the realm of possibilities. It just seemed more like out of a movie than reality.]

IAN GRUCA: Tom is in the middle of his interview with Mark. We’re supposed to go to break. At that point I’m like, “Guys, we ain’t going to break. This is too good.”

[ESPN
Mark Cuban: I mean, I walked over to my wife. It’s like, do we send our
kids to school tomorrow? You know, is it that big? Again, you know, it’s like out of a movie it’s not even real.]

TOM RINALDI: We finished the interview and he looked at me like he was still stunned. And I looked at him, I know, like I was stunned. And I guess the only thing I could think of to say to him again was, “Thanks, and good luck.”

DORIS BURKE: It felt a little chaotic and it absolutely felt surreal. It may have been the most strange feeling I’ve ever had on a telecast and I’ve been doing it since 1990. 

[ESPN
Doris Burke: And our thoughts to all of us in this country, obviously. We have
weighty things that we’re dealing with at this moment. It’s going to be an
interesting, an interesting next couple of days.]

[ESPN
Sports Broadcaster: The score here in Dallas, the Mavericks 113, the Nuggets 97. Special thanks to our producer Ian Gruca. Tom Rinaldi, Doris Burke, and our entire ESPN crew. I’m Ryan Ruocco.]

DORIS BURKE: What I felt before the game was this touch of anxiety. What I felt in the aftermath of that game was the beginning of fear. 

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: This entire evening began to somewhat unravel in Oklahoma City. Royce young joins us now and Royce, I realize you’ve been in the, uh, tunnel there and boots on the ground, so to speak.
Royce Young: Yeah, Scott. No player has left the arena yet. So, from what we understand right now, the players are being, uh, I don’t know if I want to call it held behind those double doors, but they are not leaving. A lot of them are confused as to why they are not leaving.]

BILLY DONOVAN: When we got back into our locker room. We were sitting around for maybe 15 minutes. 20 minutes. And that’s when, you know, the front office came in. Medical came in and they never used Rudy Gobert’s name. They just said, “A player from Utah’s tested positive. This game is going to be canceled. We’re not going to play.” And then, “Hey, listen, we’re postponing the rest of the season.”

JORDAN CLARKSON: Our head trainer, Mike Elliott, came into the locker room and came and told us that Rudy had tested positive. Like, real raw reaction is like, “Ahhh shit. We’re fucked.” We all have it. There’s no way that we all don’t have it, but, you really don’t know where anybody got it from. So we’re all like, you know, who we gonna be mad at? Just mad at corona right now. And that was it. 

BILLY DONOVAN: We were not allowed to leave the building until we had our temperature taken and, um, went through some questions by the doctors like did you come in contact with anybody from the Utah Jazz? Did you shake anybody’s hand? Were you near anybody? And once we did that they let us leave, but we could not walk past Utah’s locker room. We had to go out a different exit altogether to get out of the building.

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt (off air): Okay. Alright, Royce, we’re going to be coming to you in just a second. All right?
Royce Young (off air): [00:33:30] Okay. I’ll be ready. I’m watching Thunder coaches leaving right now behind us.]

BILLY DONOVAN: All of us from Oklahoma City probably got out of the arena by about 9:30. When I got back home I just flipped on the news just to see what was going on and I could see that Utah was still there and they were basically talking about maybe bringing cots in for them to sleep, that they may not let them leave the building.

JORDAN CLARKSON: At this point, we just in the locker room calling our friends, family, people asking me questions like I was a doctor or like I knew what was going on. I’m just like, “My life could be in danger for real.”

MARCO ALFANDARY: There was still one final game left on the schedule and it was that Pelicans-Kings game in Sacramento.

 

[ESPN 

Scott Van Pelt: That game tonight is between the Kings and the Pelicans. It’s scheduled about 10 minutes from now….]

SCOTT VAN PELT: In the same way that finishing that Maverick’s game felt odd, the idea of starting the nightcap felt equally odd, if not more so. If we know that we’re not going to play any more then why are we playing this game? We were piecing together the fact that the, one of the officials in that game had been in the Utah game. And then the Pelicans were like, “Man, that dude refereed a game with them? We’re not playing.”

 

JJ REDICK: Everybody was just like, “Nah, we’re not playing. It’s not going to happen tonight.” I’m JJ Reddick, I play for the New Orleans Pelicans.

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: The game that was scheduled between the Pelicans and the Kings, that has been canceled.]

JJ REDICK: Leaving the arena was just the weirdest thing. I’ve got security on one side of me and another player on the other side and there’s fans trying to come over and talk to us. We’re like, “Don’t touch us. Don’t come near us.” It was the first time in this whole thing where you realize, like, “We’re going to be separated from people for a while.” When we get to the hotel, we order a bunch of wine. We’re all sort of trying to decompress and come down. We’re all scared. We’re all on edge, to be honest with you. And at that point for those two or two and a half hours it was a lot of phone calls. It was a lot of texting; my wife texting me. She’s like, “I’m really scared. I’m really scared. I need you to get home. I need you to get home.” We were supposed to go to Utah next and once we realized we weren’t going to play then it became, “Can we leave now? We all want to get home now. We need to get back to our families now.”

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: Scott van pelt with you here at ESPN SportsCenter. It’s about 11 o’clock eastern time. We were supposed to be bringing you the Pelicans and the Kings.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: So, the fact that they didn’t start meant we had to start. And then we did, like, I don’t even know, like 40-some odd, 50 minutes of, I think, uninterrupted TV where none of us knew what we were doing. 

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: Andrew Lopez joins us now.
Scott Van Pelt: Tim Legler alongside
Scott Van Pelt: Malika, thank you so much for the time and the context. Always appreciate it.
Scott Van Pelt: I’m going to reiterate and underline it a hundred times. And if it, if it’s over the top, I don’t care. You don’t know. I don’t know. We don’t know.
Scott Van Pelt: Woj, hold tight.
Scott Van Pelt: Tim, hold tight for just a moment. More news from OKC.]

SCOTT VAN PELT: I remember consciously thinking, “I’m freaking out as a sports fan,” but don’t project that, right? Try to be measured. Try to be quiet. Try to listen to what it is people are saying to you so that you can ask a coherent and thoughtful question next. 

[ESPN
Scott Van Pelt: And Royce Young, just off the phone with Sam Presti and Royce, what can you tell us about what he’s got to say about the situation?
Royce Young: Yeah, the Thunder have left the arena, Scott. The Jazz, though, are still here at the arena and there’s a large group that just showed up in the hallway and they closed the curtain off and they didn’t want anybody to go back there. And it’s pretty obvious that that group of people is here to test the Utah Jazz.]

SARAH TODD: Me and a few other reporters were able to get into the tunnel and make our way to the area right next to the tunnel that leads to the visiting locker room. We sat down at, sort of, this makeshift folding table. You know, we didn’t know a lot about the virus. One of the things that we did know was that proximity matters and proximity to Rudy Gobert is my job. And so then I start wondering, “Am I safe?” Like, “Should I be worried?” My mother’s supposed to travel from California to Utah to visit me in two days. It was just a weird scene because as we’re sitting there I end up crying ‘cause I’m scared that I’m going to die. I call my mom, I tell her to cancel the trip. Meanwhile, we’ve got like, you know, people in, like, biohazard suits it looks like walking towards the locker room. 

JORDAN CLARKSON: When they came in the locker room they were in like Monsters, Inc. suits like, you know, the glass masks and all that. Like full body covered suits, like, all the way down to everything. And we were just like, “Oh wow, this is really serious.” Then, I seen one of my teammates, they did his nose thing and he just was over there eyes watering. Everything. I was like, “Yo!” And she, like, stuck the, like, swab thing super far down his nose. And I just was like, “Aw, nah, I ain’t going to be able to do this!”

SARAH TODD: I mean, people are on the ground ripping open testing kits because there’s just boxes everywhere outside of the locker room. And then they’re lining up people like five or six at a time, like, “Okay, I’ve got your name, your name, your name, your name. You’re going to come into the locker room, sit in these chairs and we’re going to do this.” So it was a long process to get, not only all of the Jazz traveling party tested, but then the rest of the people, the broadcast crew, all the trainers, and then the three beat reporters. You know, we were told, “Walk back towards the locker room, we’re going to let you guys back here, you’re going to get tested.” They administered the test. They stuck a swab up my nose. All of the men take it like children. I handled it just fine. Um, you know, it wasn’t that bad. It was uncomfortable, it didn’t hurt. Test is over. They tell us we’re going to go back out into the hallway and someone from the Department of Health and someone from the CDC, they’re going to talk to us and tell us what the next steps are. And so they start talking to us about, “You can’t fly commercially.” And so we were like, “I’m sorry, what?” Like, “We don’t live in Oklahoma. We need to get to Utah. How are we supposed to get home?” And he was like, “I don’t know,” like, “Great question.”

JORDAN CLARKSON: At this point I’m just, like, scared and nervous. Like, I really don’t get scared of a lot of things and but this, at this point I really kinda just put everything in perspective like we gotta, like, get this under control and figure out what we’re gonna do. Figure out, really, how we gonna get out of here and if we safe enough to leave.

RUDY GOBERT: So when I found out I was positive the first thought that came to my mind was I need to call my mother and make sure that she gets the news from me because she got a tendency to stress a lot over things and my mom is everything to me. She was actually asleep at the time because of the time difference. So, I kept calling, kept calling. I told myself that I didn’t want to go to sleep until I had told her and that she was able to hear my voice. She cried a little bit but I tried to reassure her and tell her repeating to her that I was doing fine and after that, you know, she just wanted to hear my voice.

SCOTT VAN PELT: Driving home that night… and the drive home in Connecticut’s an interesting one because it’s route 84, late at night, there’s no one on the roads and it’s just you and headlights and a dark highway. And it’s just a drive home to… you’re driving into a world that just felt like you, you didn’t… everything looked familiar, but nothing felt the same, you know. You’re just like, “Holy shit, what is this all about?” What is this even gonna mean?” I was so mad. I was just so bummed out as a fan. That was it. Like, everything stops because if the NBA is not playing then college basketball is not playing and the NHL will take its cues from the NBA. And so we’re just not going to play for a while. You go home and sit there and it’s late at night and you’re by yourself in a quiet house and you just knew that the direction of the entire 2020 year for the whole world just took a massive turn. 

[ABC 

Narrator: This is Nightline

Byron Pitts: Tonight…]

 

BYRON PITTS: I sat in the chair, Michele and I, we fist pumped because Michele knew, the seasoned broadcast journalist knew that it was going to be a night like few we’d ever experienced in our career. And so I sat there, I had my script, had my glass of a ginger ale on ice, and strapped in for what was a long night. 

 

[ABC

Byron Pitts: Good evening, thank you for joining us. Tonight, the rare Oval Office address, only his second time ever…]

 

BYRON PITTS: I know for me personally I was feeling a little shaken. Most times when I cover really bad stories it means I have to get on a plane to go someplace else, but on March 11th the bad news wasn’t just like outside the door, right? It was around me. It was around all of us. So, I wanted to find something that would encourage people.

 

[ABC
Byron Pitts: This month marks the 40th anniversary of our broadcast. Nightline was born in response to a crisis. Giving facts, context, and when possible, comfort as our nation dealt with the Iran hostages. 40 years later, the coronavirus is our new challenge.]

 

BYRON PITTS: In many ways, the show went back to where it started. There’s a crisis. We’re going to find a way to tell this serious story in a narrative way that the average person can understand and that they can go to bed with a sense that this is how it is in the world and this is the world I will face in the morning when I wake up. 

 

[ABC
Byron Pitts: It was American businessman, J. Willard Marriott, who said, “Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the tree.” My friends, we are a nation of good timber. That’s Nightline for this evening. Thanks for the company America. Good night.]

 

[ESPN
Show Host: Good morning. We get up together on this day in a different place.]

 

JORDAN CLARKSON: I literally stayed up the whole night. I remember watching the sun rise. I took a shower and as I was in the shower Mike Elliot calls me again and says, “JC you’re negative.” It was just like a sigh of relief. And like, I kinda, like, fell to my knees in the shower and just was, like, taking a deep breath and calling my parents.

SARAH TODD: When I got a call that said that I tested negative I thought I dodged a bullet. I didn’t know how I did, but I dodged a bullet.

JORDAN CLARKSON: We were all rushing down to the lobby if you was negative, like, boom, boom, boom. And I just remember turning and not seeing Donovan there. I just was like, “Awww.”

[ESPN
Show Host: Jazz start Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus.]

SARAH TODD: We sat in that hallway and chatted with Donovan Mitchell for a little bit before we went in and got tested. And they just told me that the incubation period is 14 days, so I’m not safe at all. And so, you know, that night was sleepless and many nights after were sleepless.

[ESPN
News Anchor: An unprecedented day in the world of sports. The coronavirus outbreak bringing nearly every major sport or sporting event to a halt.

News Anchor: The NHL has suspended its season.

News Anchor: The NFL has canceled their spring meeting.

News Anchor: The ATP has announced a six week suspension…

News Anchor: Major League Soccer is suspending its entire season…

News Anchor: MLB is expected to announce today they will be suspending all operations…

News Anchor: The NCAA is indeed canceling the men’s and women’s basketball tournament. It will… it’s not postponed, it will not happen this year.]

[ESPN 

News Anchor: If the disease hasn’t hit a family member or friend, the chances are pretty high it will. And here at ESPN it has. Longtime basketball analyst Doris Burke has tested positive for COVID-19.]

 

DORIS BURKE: It never crossed my mind that I had the virus. And it wasn’t until I got home and day after day started to pass and my fatigue level was not getting better. And now I couldn’t get out of bed. If I got out of bed for five minutes, I would look at my daughter and go, “I have to go back upstairs.” What we know now is when I was interacting with those fans, with the coaches, with the players, and with my colleagues, I was unequivocally shedding the virus. And so you have to come to grips with that as a person. Once I started to get better, I literally, the only thing I think, and even to this day, is I’m so thankful to be well. I’m so thankful that I came through it and I am so thankful that I did not get any of my colleagues sick. ‘Cause that would have broken my heart. 

[ABC
News Anchor: Just three months into this pandemic and tonight America has just crossed that awful milestone. The U.S. has now reached 100,000 lives lost.]

[ABC
News Anchor: The pandemic surges across the country.]

[CNN
News Anchor: We’re approaching seven million infections.]

[NPR
News Anchor: More than 12 million documented COVID infections.]

[ABC
News Anchor: The U.S. facing 200,000 coronavirus deaths.]

[NPR
Commentator: We’re losing the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every three days in the U.S.] 

Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI: What’s gone on between March and now is like, you know, a cement truck dumping all the concrete on my head and trying to at the same time drink from a fire hydrant. I think hopefully when it’s over everybody will realize that we’re all in this together.

RUDY GOBERT: Hopefully when we come out of this, we, we going to have a different perception of, you know, the world and how to appreciate life. With everything that’s going through, if there’s one thing that you realize is that, you know, you got to enjoy every moment with the people that you love.

JJ REDICK: There’s still people that don’t take this seriously, saying the virus doesn’t exist. We all know people who have died from this. We all know people who’ve been hospitalized from this. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to get, like, worked up about this, but if we live with this thing for five more years and we never get it under control and 5 million people die, then who the fuck cares what the NBA did on March 11th?

EVANDER PITTMAN: I’ve known a couple people to contract the virus. I knew a guy that passed away from it. You know, so it was like one of those deals where when it comes to my safety and my family’s safety, I’d rather be safe than to be at a game, you know? Cause there’s always next season.

 

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT: I’ve never lived through something like this. I think most people would tell you the same thing: that 2020 has been a, a very strange year. It’s really a watershed moment in American history and you can trace it back to that day on March 11th.

 

RAMONA SHELBURNE: Honestly, the more I look back on March 11th, the more I realize that the signs of how seriously we should have taken everything were all there. They were all there, blinking lights in front of all of us. Blinking lights. Everyone involved in this, like, we all saw it. We just didn’t know how big it was really going to be.

SARAH TODD: In a really short amount of time we went from knowing nothing and taking almost zero precaution to really starting to address this. And so it feels like Rudy Gobert testing positive and leading to the NBA shutting down potentially saved thousands of lives. 

TOM RINALDI: Right or wrong, sports have an ability to spark national conversation in ways that some other institutions no longer can, or maybe never have. We look to sports for something. Sometimes it’s distraction, sometimes it’s passion, but sometimes it’s leadership. That’s what the NBA provided in this one moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Credits

March 11th 2020 was developed with ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne, and inspired by her article “Inside the NBA coronavirus shutdown: How a few tense hours changed everything”

Senior Editorial Producer: Julia Lowrie Henderson

Senior Producer: Kristen Lappas

Production Team: Meradith Hoddinott, Andrew Mambo, Reilly Bloom, Derwin Graham, and Gus Navarro

Executive Producers: Erin Leyden and Libby Geist

Original Music, Mix Engineering, and Sound Design by Ryan Ross Smith

Project Manager and Licensing: Cath Sankey

Louise Argianas and Jennifer Thorpe provided additional licensing support

Executive Producers for ESPN: Connor Schell and Rob King

The ESPN research team provided fact checking

Alan Lau provided legal review

 

Special Thanks

ESPN’s E60 team, Lisa Salters, Andy Tennant, Pia Malbran, Michael Baltierra, Stacey Pressman, Eve Wulf, and Mitra Kaboli

 

Additional Production Support
Matt Frassica, Kateleigh Mills, Talia Blake, Anny Celsi, Skylar Lebron

Archival Material

Audio provided courtesy of:

ABC Videosource

CNN

Public Radio Tulsa/KWGS

NBA Entertainment

NBC News

NPR

NYPR

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.