We all remember March 11, 2020, as the day that life ended as we knew it.
It was the day that the Jazz-Thunder game at Chesapeake Energy Arena was postponed because a Utah player tested positive for COVID-19.
A single NBA game postponed in Oklahoma City was the first falling domino in a cascade of millions of others around the world.
OKC was the center of the COVID universe that night.
The Oklahoman wrote a terrific oral history of that night in OKC that you don’t want to miss.
My family will always have vivid memories of March 11. I was home, parked in front of the television waiting for the game to commence.
Meanwhile, my wife met her mother, like we often do – or did – at Chesapeake Arena and waited for tipoff from their seats in Section 206.
I’m not sure who suspected something was up first. As the television broadcast went on, I recall the Thunder announcers talking about a delay, but not knowing what was causing it.
In the arena, my wife and her mother noticed the delay too. They were expecting tipoff at any second.
But it never happened.
“The moment that stands out to me,” Paula told me, “was the two Thunder employees running out and huddling at midcourt with the game officials. We didn’t know what it was about, but we knew that something was up.”
At home in my recliner, I speculated to Paula in a text that the game might be delayed because a player had tested positive for COVID. I was repeating a rumor I saw on Twitter.
She texted back what she saw from her seat, which was that players were being herded off the court. The Thunder tried to distract the crowd for a few minutes with what would have been the halftime entertainment.
But fans in the stands were left to speculate among themselves what was happening. Some grew restless, she said.
Finally, the Thunder announced that the game had been postponed on orders from the NBA. Fans were asked to leave in an orderly fashion.
Paula and her mom slowly left the arena, but not before she took an awesome photo of the scoreboard that announced the postponement. No one panicked, although there were a few boos after the announcement.
It wasn’t until she got home that it was confirmed what we all suspected. Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19.
We both wondered if she and all the other fans in attendance were in danger. Was Gobert even there (he wasn’t)? What did it mean to the rest of the NBA season?
I remember that the TV coverage continued for some time after the game was cancelled. But I recall very little of what was said, because the implications of what had just happened were all I could think about.
Turns out that the NBA did shut down after March 11, followed by college basketball, Major League Baseball and most of life as we knew it.
Paula’s photo has served as my Twitter and Facebook background for exactly one year. I’m retiring it today, replacing it with a happier photo shot at an OKC Dodgers baseball game two years ago.
It’s time to move on with our lives.