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The Check-In: Gordon Hayward expands horizons through video games

Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward checks the scoreboard during a game against the Indiana Pacers on March 10, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward checks the scoreboard during a game against the Indiana Pacers on March 10 in Indianapolis.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward was getting ready to go out to dinner in Milwaukee when everything changed, one text at a time, before he could sit down to place his order.

“It was wild, over the course of 45 minutes I went from getting ready to play the Milwaukee Bucks to figuring out how we were going to get home,” Hayward said. “The first text was that a Utah Jazz player had tested positive for coronavirus and their game in Oklahoma City was canceled. And then our game was going to get canceled and then the whole season was suspended.”

It was March 11, and with no game the next night and the season up in the air, Hayward met with two assistant coaches at a nearby bar, where important questions were discussed.

“We’re sitting there wondering if we’re going home or if we’re stuck in Milwaukee and then it hits us that we just played the Jazz five days ago,” Hayward recalled. “Do we have it and we don’t even know it? When are we going to get tested? All these things are going through our minds and we’re just trying to figure everything out like everyone else was.”

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Abdul-Malik and Munir McClain, who play football at USC, are living a new normal during the pandemic. It’s virtual classrooms and virtual lessons from coaches.

The Celtics traveled home the next day and were later tested for coronavirus, but Hayward wasn’t sure what to do while waiting for the results. Over the previous week, the Celtics had not only played the Jazz, who had two confirmed cases, but the Brooklyn Nets, who had four confirmed cases. Hayward’s wife, Robyn, is pregnant and they have three young daughters at home. If he was positive, he didn’t want to infect his wife and children.

“If my wife were to get it that could potentially be catastrophic and life-threatening for our baby and for her, so I wanted to make sure before I was able to come home that I was clear,” Hayward said. “We got tested a couple of days after we got home. I talked to the doctors and we determined that it was OK for me to go home, but I should keep my distance and not snuggle up to anybody until we got the results back and we were 100% sure.”

Hayward’s test came back negative, but his former Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert was the first positive test in the NBA and his Celtics teammate Marcus Smart also tested positive. Both players recovered but showed Hayward anyone could contract the coronavirus.

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“Having a teammate get it, I just wanted to make sure they were OK,” Hayward said. “It’s a scary situation and everybody has parents or grandparents or someone in the family where if they get it could potentially be more dangerous.”

Hayward has spent the last month at home with his family but he has also found more time to play his favorite video game, “League of Legends.” Gordon will routinely livestream his sessions but has also used playing video games as a way to continue to stay in touch with family and friends.

“I think video games have been instrumental to me as an NBA player,” said Hayward, who led Butler to back-to-back NCAA tournament semifinals and a championship appearance. “When I first left Indianapolis, I was only 20 years old and moved out to Utah and had no friends or family there. I had my teammates but I was the youngest player and everyone had a family so video games and being able to play them with my friends, it was like I was hanging out with them.

“We’re all quarantining but as someone who plays video games, that part feels normal. Everyone is still getting on and we can play and hang out.”

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Gordon recently invested in Tribe Gaming, a mobile-focused esports organization. He enjoys streaming but that hasn’t always been easy with his daughters wanting attention.

Athletes, entertainers and others have an alternative way to connect with fans thanks to their cellphone and Cameo, a social media company.

“We definitely have a lot going in the Hayward household,” Hayward said. “If anyone has watched my stream recently it has been hard to get up here and play some games. I’ve been invaded by my daughters a couple times as I’ve been playing. I think that people like to see that. They’re great when they come up here except for when they’re making me lose. My wife let me have one room in the house that I can do whatever I want with so I got my dual monitors set-up here and my PC and I’m good to go.”

Hayward has been trying to stay in shape but said he hasn’t been able to step foot on a court or shoot a basketball since the season was suspended.

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“We have a small home gym and I have dumbbells up to 40 pounds and I got my wife a Peloton last year so I’ve been on that and doing the home workouts,” Hayward said. “On days when it’s nice, I can go outside for a run and do some ball handling drills like I’m a kid back in my driveway. I don’t have a basketball court. I haven’t been able to shoot or anything. The practice facility is closed so there’s nowhere to go. We’re just trying to figure out how we can get through this and keep ourselves ready but at the same time keep our distance and stay safe.”


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