NBA fans were losing their minds on social media on Wednesday morning as they digested the surprise news that star point guard Chris Paul would miss his team’s crucial upcoming playoffs games “indefinitely” because he’s been placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
That means that the Phoenix Suns’ starting point guard was somehow exposed to COVID-19 at some point between sweeping the Denver Nuggets during a pivotal Game 4 on Sunday and Wednesday morning when Shams Charania of the Athletic broke the news.
Questions about the development flooded social media timelines: How did he come to be exposed? Was it when he jumped in the stands and hugged his family after winning Game 4? If so, shouldn’t his teammates and coaches also be placed on the same protocol since Paul was exposed to them?
But one question, in particular, stood out: Is Chris Paul vaccinated?
According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, the NBA has loosened its COVID-19 restrictions for players, coaches and team staff who have been fully vaccinated.
Citing an NBA memo sent around the league back in March, Holmes reported specifically that “Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer have to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19.”
But the Athletic reported that Paul will have to “clear quarantine” before returning to the team, suggesting that he is indeed being quarantined.
So that must mean Paul is not vaccinated, right?
Wrong, so says former NBA star Jalen Rose, who suggested on Wednesday that Paul is fully vaccinated.
Of course, we’re all still learning about COVID-19, which can be spread asymptomatically, so there may never be a definite answer on how Paul became exposed. Not to mention, being fully vaccinated is still not 100% protection against its transmission.
Either way, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is a real thing in the NBA, according to reports.
One of those reports stems from comments that LeBron James made when a reporter asked him about the COVID-19 vaccine.
James was reluctant to say definitively whether he had been vaccinated before chuckling that “it’s not a big deal.”
Notably, James and Paul have said they are best friends.
To be sure, if there ever was a time for Paul to be placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol, it’s now. The Suns are in an enviable position and won’t play next until Sunday at the earliest and Tuesday at the latest, giving Paul plenty of time to isolate and quarantine. At worst, he could miss one game in the seven-game series against a team that has yet to be determined because the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz are still playing against each other in the second round.
What makes the news so much more jarring is that Paul has perhaps his best shot of winning an NBA title now, in his 16th season. The NBA veteran has previously been dogged by injuries in the playoffs. But this year he seems more determined than ever, having led the Suns to an impressive record of 8 wins and just 2 losses on their way to the Western Conference Finals, one series away from competing for the NBA championship.
At the end of the day, though, this is about more than basketball. While Paul is a healthy athlete, he is still Black, which makes him exponentially more vulnerable to COVID-19 than members of other groups.