With COVID-19 sowing chaos on the NBA and its schedule, the league continues to update its mitigation protocols.
The latest? The NBA has installed on-court security to enforce social distancing measures between players on opposing teams. This means no hugs. No handshakes. No postgame jersey swaps.
It’s a lesson Kyrie Irving and Bam Adebayo learned firsthand on Saturday. After Irving’s Brooklyn Nets topped Adebayo’s Miami Heat, the two met on court to chat and swap jerseys.
No jersey swap on Saturday, but ...
They didn’t get very far. As Adebayo started to strip his game jersey, a security officer swooped in to break things up. Adebayo walked away and gestured at Irving that he would get the jersey to him. Irving stood gobsmacked before turning away to walk to the Nets tunnel.
Heat security had to break up Kyrie and Bam Adebayo from hugging after the game. pic.twitter.com/8rViHGY2Et
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 24, 2021
Adebayo vowed to after the game to “give Kyrie the jersey on my own time.”
Success on Monday
The Eastern Conference rivals met again two days later on Monday in the second of the two-game series — another side effect of NBA’s COVID-19 season. This time — after another Nets win — Irving had a plan.
It’s not clear if Adebayo already delivered his jersey from Saturday to Irving. But Irving made sure that Adebayo was getting his.
Instead of meeting Adebayo on court, Irving remained near the Nets bench, where he removed his jersey and beckoned the Heat center. Adebayo was in the midst exchanging a forbidden handshake in front of a considerably more relaxed security effort before he walked over to meet Irving and retrieve his jersey.
Kyrie gave Bam his jersey after the game 💯 pic.twitter.com/7Qh4PHpel2
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 26, 2021
Adebayo then casually walked to the Heat tunnel with the jersey in plain sight before realizing he should probably go incognito. He stuffed Irving’s jersey under his before walking off the court, apparently completing the exchange with no repercussion from on-site security.
Well played, gentlemen.
Will NBA respond?
Now, the NBA has a choice. Will it respond to the violation or turn a blind eye to the cameras that recorded the now taboo exchange?
It’s a tough spot for a league that green-lights 48-plus minutes of close contact during gameplay only to rush players to opposing corners after the final horn.
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