Jayson Tatum’s name first popped up on the NBA’s injury report on January 9 due to the league’s COVID-19 Health and Safety protocols. He was listed as doubtful at the time, but what the NBA world hadn’t quite learned yet is that the Boston Celtics’ superstar had indeed tested positive for COVID-19.
It was two weeks before Tatum was able to re-join his teammates after his COVID-19 diagnosis. He played 31 minutes that night, leading the Celtics with 24 points to a 119-103 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Though the box scores might not show it, the 23-year-old All-Star says he is still battling the effects of COVID-19 almost two months since he tested positive.
That’s what’s so scary about the Toronto Raptors’ current COVID-19 situation. The organization has five players currently in NBA Health and Safety protocols and according to reporting from The Athletic’s Shams Charania “many” of the league’s seven new COVID-19 cases are Raptors players. Those players are currently in quarantine and while many people bounce back from a COVID-19 diagnosis quickly and with relative ease, some do not.
“I’m not sure about back to normal,” Tatum said Thursday night when I asked him how long it took him to return to normal. “I for sure feel better than I did the first game. It’s a long process. I talked to guys who said it took months to kind of catch their breath, get their wind back and I think I’m kind of in the same, same track with that. I for sure feel better, I don’t feel necessarily the same [as] before I got it when I was playing. I definitely know there’s a difference, but I feel pretty good.”
Last month, Tatum was even more specific about what he’s been going through. He told reporters he was getting fatigued a lot quicker than he had prior to contracting the virus and it was sometimes tough running up and down the court over and over again.
The story has been far more concerning for Orlando Magic centre Mo Bamba who contracted COVID-19 on June 11, 2020. Almost nine months later, the 22-year-old is still yet to return to his pre-COVID self. He’s played a total of 161 minutes this season while participating in just 17 of Orlando’s 36 games.
The NBA has thankfully not had any truly severe case of COVID-19, but athletes in other sports and around the world have not been so fortunate.
In the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars’s 23-year-old running back Ryquell Armstead missed the entire 2019-20 season and was reportedly hospitalized twice and has suffered from significant respiratory issues, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported in late October. In September 2020, a 20-year-old defensive lineman at the California University of Pennsylvania died of a blood clot his family said was connected to his COVID-19 diagnosis.
In all likelihood, any players who may have contracted the virus on the Raptors will bounce back after a short recovery. They’re young, athletic, and have world-class healthcare at their disposal to help with whatever ailments may be troubling them. But that doesn’t mean it’s not scary.
For privacy reasons, the organization will not release who on the team, if anyone, has contracted COVID-19, and therefore there’s no way to know how those players in quarantine are doing. As the always calm Kyle Lowry said on Thursday night, it’s stressful and there’s some anxiety knowing your teammates are battling something that remains still so unknown.
“They’re your brothers, they’re your friends, first and foremost and you want to make sure they’re healthy,” he said.
For Raptors fans, all there is to do is hope. Hope for the best for them and that they do indeed make a speedy recovery.