Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal joined former president Barack Obama on an NBC special Sunday night to encourage Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines. The former NBA players — who have remained highly visible through their roles as analysts for “Inside the NBA” on TNT — exchanged humorous barbs and briefly spoke with O’Neal’s mother before Obama joined them. “So I’m playing Kenny the Jet,” Obama joked when he joined the duo, in reference to Kenny Smith, who is an analyst alongside Barkley and O’Neal on “Inside the NBA.”
"Now, as the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones — African American, Latino — as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal," Obama added. "The sooner we get more people vaccinated the better off we're going to be." Barkley said he's on the verge of getting his second vaccine shot, and O'Neal said he's been vaccinated, along with family members with underlying conditions. "But I'm not worried about me or my family. I'm worried about the average mom and dad," O'Neal said.
The Kings held a media walkthrough Friday to demonstrate the new fan experience as the team prepares to open its doors for the first time in more than a year. Only those who are fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be allowed to attend games for now, but it’s a start for a franchise that has incurred huge financial losses due to the pandemic.
Under red-tier restrictions, the Kings can admit up to about 3,500 fans, but all ticketholders must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR or Antigen test completed within 72 hours of the event. The Kings said they are partnering with a testing facility in West Sacramento that will offer day-of-game testing at a discounted price for anyone with a ticket.
Magic Johnson: I’m fully vaccinated! I’m so excited I got my second shot. Cookie and I are now fully vaccinated and my son EJ got his first shot today! pic.twitter.com/9Rz7PukCJ8
The exact number is not known. Getting the vaccine is a personal choice. The organization did not make it mandatory. Not all of the players agreed to it. But a source said a “fair amount of players” received the one-time Johnson and Johnson shot. There are currently 15 guys on the roster, including Lamar Stevens and Brodric Thomas, both of whom are currently on two-way contracts. “It was a great turnout,” a source said.
Because it was Johnson and Johnson, members of the organization who received the vaccine during that rollout will not need a second dose. According to a source, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, 42, received his vaccine earlier, prior to knowing it would be available to the entire team on March 30. Bickerstaff had the first dose of Moderna. His second shot is scheduled for Monday, April 12 -- a team off day following a weekend back-to-back and before the Cavaliers travel to Charlotte for a one-off road game, sources say.
Chris Grenham: Danny Ainge tells @Toucherandrich that the Celtics have been trying to get something set up for the team to get vaccinated. Ainge: “Mike Zarren has been on the phone a lot”
Less than a week after DeAndre' Bembry was deemed eligible to exit the NBA's COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, the 26-year-old guard took to Instagram to post a video of him getting what appears to be the COVID-19 vaccine. Bembry is the first known member of the organization to post about the vaccine. He spent about a week in COVID-19 quarantine in late March, presumably after being a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
Darnell Mayberry: Before embarking on a season-long, five-game road trip, Chicago Bulls players received the COVID-19 vaccine, sources told The Athletic. theathletic.com/2504521/2021/0…
Karl-Anthony Towns: Shot 1 ✅ pic.twitter.com/LQfB6SrH0k
Mark Followill: Rick Carlisle just announced he had an unexpected positive test for COVID. He said he's been fully vaccinated since January & is hopeful it is a false positive. He has been re-tested & is currently at the team hotel. If he is unable to be at the game, Jamahl Mosely will be coach
For larger-capacity venues, testing or proof of vaccination would be required and capacity limited to 20% in the red tier. The threshold would be 10%, or 2,000 people, in the orange tier — and could increase further to 35% if all attendees are tested or show proof of full vaccination.
Despite the Herculean efforts of the NBA and the NBPA, the league is encountering a variety of problems in trying to get everyone in the league vaccinated against COVID-19. The teams having the most difficulty getting vaccinations include the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers, BasketballNews.com has learned. Numerous league sources described the situation as an ongoing, daily dilemma in which they are fighting against misinformation, historical truths about government abuse of vaccination programs in Black communities and logistical complications based upon different vaccination qualification rules in different states.
With the United States entering what the government is calling the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infections, the slow return to normalcy is proving difficult in both the NBA and society at large. A league source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said teams have been instructed by the league office that they cannot jump the line to get members of their organizations vaccinated, and nobody will be forced to be vaccinated against their will. But at the same time, extraordinary efforts are being made to educate players and team personnel about the merits of vaccination.
One source said that one of the most difficult tasks has been dispelling myths being perpetuated by anti-vaccine advocates whose information is being re-reported by some mainstream media companies and spreading on social media and online forums. Privately, players have expressed that they are hesitant to get the vaccine due to systemic distrust in the U.S. government, in large part due to the infamous "Tuskegee Experiment," league sources told BasketballNews.com.
For James in particular, outwardly stating that he received a vaccine, or planned to, would be the greatest thing he has ever done. Greater than any made basket, any championship won, any school opened or voting rights campaign spearheaded. “I think the opinions and actions of trusted sports icons could make a difference in encouraging their fans to get the vaccine,” Cheryl B. Prince, a retired epidemiologist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1980 to 2019, told The Undefeated.
Enes Kanter: Wow Just found out that my uncle in Turkey which I haven’t seen in 8 years, just passed away cause of COVID. Pray for him! Please take the vaccine seriously, It saves you & your loved ones Because of @RTErdogan, I can’t even pay proper respect to my uncle Screw you @RTErdogan
Such as the COVID-19 vaccines, which some NBA athletes are opposed to taking. “No sir,” Warriors wing Kent Bazemore said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters.
Bazemore considers his decision “a lifestyle thing,” as he is not keen on making allowances. “I do everything I can to strengthen my immune system, with hours upon hours of cooking, preparing my meals at home, really being conscious of what I put in my body and taking care of my health,” he said. “My family has a history of heart disease and all these different things, and I’m trying to turn that around for my lineage. So, I’m taking it upon myself to do everything I can to keep my immune system strong and live a healthy and long life.”
Monte Poole: The Warriors, amid trade deadline madness, have joined those NBA teams to go through the COVID vaccination process, per multiple league sources. Not every player, obviously.
Magic Johnson: Today I got my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I’m so excited to have taken one of the final steps to protect myself and my family from COVID-19!
Johnson said "it is so important I have been doing everything the right way. Wearing my mask, cleaning my hands all the time." "Now the most important thing is to get this vaccine to ease my mind and I have done all my research and homework and consulted my doctors and I want to do it for me and for my family but also for my community, too, at the same time," he said adding he "can't wait" to get his shot.
Baxter Holmes: The NBA is investigating possibly coordinating with national pharmacy chains to “to host on-site vaccination clinics for players, team and arena personnel, and household members at team facilities and arenas in the coming weeks," according to a league memo sent out today.
Members of the Los Angeles Lakers organization are expected to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 this week, sources told ESPN. It was not clear which players or staffers were planning to receive the vaccine as HIPAA regulations preclude anyone from the team from commenting on the situation.
Earlier this month, when given a chance to get the coronavirus vaccine, Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli didn’t hesitate. Melli had watched for more than a year as the coronavirus ripped through his home country of Italy, where during the first wave hospitals became overwhelmed, and where the death toll from the virus has now surpassed 105,000. “I believe we have to trust science,” Melli said. “Otherwise, what are we doing here? I took it. I felt comfortable with it. I felt good. Hopefully, all of my family in Italy will get it, so when I go back home, I can be with them, hug them, kiss them and go slowly back to normal life. This is not normal.”
Before the season, Melli said he planned to “run away from the virus.” That meant when he was not playing basketball, he would hole up in his apartment or in a hotel room if the Pelicans were on the road. Melli said he has done just that. But the mental toll of not being around people outside of work hasn’t been easy. “I have no social life,” Melli said. “I don’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant. I’m tired of taking the delivery at home. It’s not the same thing. I have no social life. But this is the right thing. Personally, to me this is the right thing to do.”
Melli said is looking forward to returning home to Italy this summer, where he hopefully will be able to spend time with loved ones. Melli is close with his grandmother, who spent close to 90 days in isolation during the worst stages of the pandemic. “I cannot wait,” Melli said. “I miss it. I missed kissing my grandmother last summer. I miss hugging my parents for real last summer. I miss seeing my friends also. I didn’t see my friends last summer when I went back home. This is not normal. We are getting used to it.”
Omari Sanfoka II: Dwane Casey said he caught COVID-19 around the time Christian Wood had it, and the team didn't publicize it. Didn't have any strong symptoms. He's fully vaccinated now
Aaron Rose: Nick Nurse says he will be looking at getting vaccinated when he gets back to Florida. The state is now vaccinating 50 year olds.
Jusuf Nurkic: I got my vaccine 💉 today. I can't live in fear of infecting someone else and the people I love. The best protection is vaccine and the fastest way to get back to normal. #HaveYourOpinion #MakeYourMove pic.twitter.com/qpbZFUT6cR
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is optimistic that his team can start getting the coronavirus vaccine soon. “I think we’ve all been very careful about not jumping in front of the line, in front of people who really desperately need (the vaccines) and who are eligible for them,” Kerr said before Saturday night’s game against the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum. “Hopefully we are getting to the point where there are going to be vaccines available for everybody to see.”
Some teams, including the Hawks, have started getting vaccinated. Kerr said he considered taking the Warriors into nearby Mississippi — where vaccines are more easily obtainable — on their Memphis trip, but that “wasn’t something we actually executed.”
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he hasn’t read the entire memo from the NBA headquarters. He added that the Mavs won’t forced their players to get the COVID-19 vaccination. “But my understanding is that the restrictions are easing up slightly because people are becoming vaccinated, which is a great thing,” Carlisle said. “I don’t have details, league-wide, as to which teams have been vaccinated and which haven’t. In terms of our players, vaccination is certainly going to be their choice. It’s not something that will be required. My feeling is it will be encouraged, but it’s going to be their choice alone. They won’t be forced to do it.”
Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts is excited that the NBA has taken this stance to relax some of the rules and trying to give the players, coaches and staff a bit more freedom. “I think it’s a great motivation to get everybody vaccinated, and to me that’s paramount, obviously,” Stotts. “And it should be good motivation to get vaccinated. But I look forward to that day when we are able to take advantage of all those things that are being loosen up.”
Harrison Wind: Michael Malone says he hasn't had in-depth conversations with his players about getting the vaccine: "At some point if we're able to get the vaccine, obviously I think that would be tremendous. I also respect the fact that it is a personal decision that everybody has to make."
Sarah K. Spencer: 36 members of the Hawks basketball operations staff have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 14 players. All are eligible to receive it in Georgia. The only 3 players who did not get vaccinated are not eligible yet.
Ian Begley: NBA announces that the league & NBPA have agreed to changes to the Health & Safety Protocols for any person who is 2 weeks past their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. There are also changes for any team where 85% of players & 85% of staff are fully-vaccinated. Details here: pic.twitter.com/3F78pCFmmv
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA, NBPA have agreed to new protocols for COVID-19 vaccinated individuals: - No quarantine for exposure - No PCR tests on days off - Interact with any other person at home (not at bar, club, lounge) - Go to outdoor restaurants - Four guests on road without prior testing
In terms of players outside the Pelicans, league sources said that only a small number of players have so far received a vaccine dose and that those who did so have preexisting conditions.
Michael Singer: Asked Malone whether the NBA has incentivized players getting the vaccine. "To my knowledge, no. ... Right now, myself and all of our players get tested three times a day. I think you'd probably have a lot more people willing to get the vaccine if that number went from 3 to 1."
Tim MacMahon: The Mavs are awaiting approval from the NBA office before moving forward on plans for players and staff to get vaccinated, a source told ESPN.
Sources told ESPN that while the majority of players on the Pelicans who were eligible received the shot, not every player did. Pelicans reserve guard Sindarius Thornwell became the first player to publicly acknowledge his intent to get the vaccine with a tweet late Friday night.
The Pelicans worked with Ochsner Medical Center to get eligible member of the organization their first shot -- if they chose to receive it. "The three COVID vaccines we have are safe and effective and everyone who qualifies should get the shot as soon as they can," said Christina Edwards, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for Gov. Edwards, in a statement to ESPN. "People, like members of the Pelicans, can consult with their doctors about if they might qualify because of their health conditions."
"League policy requires teams to follow their state's vaccination guidelines and programs and we are fully supportive of players and team staff being vaccinated when they are eligible," an NBA spokesperson said in a statement. Around the league, some coaches have begun to probe performance staff and team doctors, asking them when a vaccine will become available. At least one team intends to put together vaccine programs for staff and players, but that could still be weeks away.
The Pelicans received their vaccines through a partnership with a local hospital and in consultation with team doctors and officials. On Tuesday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, allowing anyone 16 or older with a health condition that may result in a higher risk of disease to get the vaccine.
One of the 12 conditions is being overweight, which is defined as someone having a body mass index of over 25, a criteria that many NBA players hit despite being professional athletes. Anyone in the state with conditions like asthma, hypertension and Type 1 diabetes are also now eligible.
Q: It's a year later, we have three vaccines now. Do you feel like you'd have to incentivize athletes in taking the vaccine, let alone getting them to be public about it? NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: I think the most important thing that I can do as a physician is to educate my patients, educate the public, and that is the campaign that we're on with the players. I want to make sure that they have the information that they need to make an informed decision. And that information has to be credible. And that's where I come in and give them the information from the clinical trials, try to break down how the vaccines work, kind of dispel myths, but also the message has to be credible about the messenger, as well. And that's where I come in and doing these presentations to the teams, each team I presented for half an hour or so. And being able to give them that information, hopefully be a trusted source, but then answer their questions. And the process of informed decision-making and informed consent in medicine involves telling people about the risks, the benefits, and any alternatives that are there. And so when we talk about the risks, we talk both about the risks associated with the vaccine — very small — but also the risks associated with the virus — a lot higher.
NBA head doctor Leroy Sims: So that's my approach is to arm our players, our organization with the information that they need to make an informed decision. Then when you talk about incentives of vaccination, I think that's a conversation, too. And that's my last slide when I talk about what are the potential benefits, the realistic benefits personally into the community, but also in the larger context. But I think that also breaks for me along medical lines because you see that vaccination allows people certain freedoms. And we take our cues from the CDC there. And so I again reflect medically on what the positives come as a result of vaccination. I don't feel like I necessarily, as a doctor who's advising them, needs to dangle a carrot. I think I need to give them the information that they need to make a great decision.
Bob Cousy, who won six NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, is old friends with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the preeminent scientist in the nation's fight against COVID-19. About two hours before getting the news about the vaccine, Cousy had spoken to Fauci on the phone. When asked if Fauci played a part in getting him the vaccine, Cousy was his usual straight-talking, self-effacing self: “Tony is busy saving the freakin’ world every day," Cousy told The Palm Beach Post. "I can’t imagine."
Cousy, who has lived in West Palm Beach for 35 years but this winter remained at his home in Worcester, Mass., said the only time the vaccine came up in their conversation was when Fauci asked if he had received it. Cousy told him he had not but he was not worried about it and his daughter was working on it. “I wasn't concerned but I simply answered his question and that was the extent of it,” Cousy said. “He didn’t say anything further."
“For the last 30 years, on a few occasions when I was being interviewed, sometimes people would say, ‘Who are your heroes?’ ” Cousy said. “I would say Dr. Anthony Fauci and they’d look at me like, ‘what the hell is a Dr. Anthony Fauci?’ Well, now the whole world knows who Dr. Anthony Fauci is."
In other words, had Embiid and Simmons been vaccinated, their close contact with their COVID-19-positive barber would not have mattered. They could have played Sunday. 12. Except, it doesn’t sound like the players have warmed to that idea, either. 13. “That’s a conversation that my family and I will have, and pretty much probably keep that to a private thing,” James said.
76ers coach Doc Rivers said he would take the vaccine. “I’m a Black man that needs to say that because I think it’s important,” Rivers said. “We have a history with vaccines that aren’t very positive in this country."
54% of Americans think it would be a good idea to give NBA players early access to the COVID-19 vaccine in order to increase public confidence in it, according to a survey administered last week by The Harris Poll.
Keith Pompey: #Sixers’ Julius Erving with his COVID-19 Vaccine PSA youtu.be/BduFxXmReSA via @YouTube
Within all of that, there was always going to be skepticism from the public that — whether it was the NBA or other pro sports leagues — the wealthy were going to jump the line (with the vaccine). I almost feel like it would make people feel good to know that someone who is guiding a lot of the protocol with the NBA is not a hired gun who only focuses on their priorities, if that makes sense. Dr. Leroy Sims: It does make sense, and what we’re doing on the NBA side is exactly what you indicated. We’re respecting public health guidelines, seeing what the CDC says and following what states and local governments and departments of health recommend. So to your point, we are not jumping the line. We are not looking to get ahead of anyone. What we’re doing is making sure that the essential and frontline workers have access to the vaccine, that people who are — from a health point of view — the most vulnerable, they have access to the vaccine. We don’t want to be in a position where we’re taking vaccines away from ER doctors or people who live in nursing homes or people with chronic medical conditions. We understand that and respect that. When the question does come up — when can we get vaccinated? — and I lay out the information about how the distribution is working right now, people go, “Yeah, I understand that.”
As a white man who has learned more and more on this front, I wonder if you think the players’ concerns are born out of the specific history here or is it also a generational thing where guys’ parents told them to be careful with the medical community (without the cultural context)? Dr. Leroy Sims: All those things are in play, Sam, because you have people who do know the history. These are some very well-read and savvy guys. They know the history. But also, they live in some of these communities, or come from some of these communities, and have seen the impacts up close and personal and have lived it. So there’s that piece that can’t be overlooked, that there is a familiarity with what’s happening. And it’s a beautiful thing that our guys stay in touch with the community. And they’re role models. And it is for that reason that we do want to partner with our players. We do want their support. We do want them to be spokesmen regarding this vaccine, and even though they can’t get vaccinated right now, we hope that they’ll lend support to family members who may be eligible to get vaccinated. So that’s one of the calls that I have: Can you all support us that way? And hopefully, when it’s your turn and we can vaccinate you, you’ll get vaccinated as well.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Dr. Sims told ESPN on Wednesday: “I’ve tried to tackle misinformation….These guys look at data all the time. I know they get the data, and appeal to them at that level.”
The NBA's outreach to the agents of many of the league's elite players -- with hopes of getting stars to participate in PSAs to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine -- has been met with a tepid response, sources said. Player apprehension about receiving the vaccine are consistent with those that also exist in Black communities throughout the country, agents and players told ESPN.
Sources describe a number of factors contributing to many players' reluctance to participate, including uncertainty about taking the vaccine themselves, reluctance to advocate its use for others and resistance to extending favors to a league amid the largely unpopular plans for an All-Star Game.
On a call with league general managers on Tuesday, commissioner Adam Silver continued to tell top team executives that the league wouldn't "jump the line" of the general public to get vaccines, but he suggested an optimistic timeline that included the possibility of late March and early April for the start of player vaccinations, sources said. Nevertheless, that's considered a fluid timeline, largely meant to reaffirm to teams the need to be prepared for whenever the opportunity to vaccinate players comes from public health officials, sources said.
Brian Lewis: Abbamondi: "For the remainder of the season we're donating a portion of ticket proceeds to support vaccination efforts in Brooklyn. We'd also like to thank our fans for their support this season and we are looking forward to bringing their energy back to Barclays Center!” #Nets
Starting with Monday night’s home game against Minnesota, the Mavericks finally will have fans in American Airlines Center, but not just any fans: 1,500 essential workers, who will be admitted for free. “We owe so much to people who have put their lives at risk to make us safer,” said Mavs owner, Mark Cuban said in a news release. “Bringing them to a Mavs game is the least we can do!”
Dr. Leroy Sims, the NBA’s senior vice president of medical affairs, will meet via Zoom with every team between now and Feb. 19, according to a league memo obtained by The Athletic, for the express purpose of reflecting “on his experience as an emergency medicine physician during the COVID-19 pandemic and his COVID-19 vaccination — to promote greater understanding and awareness regarding league-wide and public vaccination initiatives.” With so many players in need of information and insight on this front, sources say teams asked league officials for assistance when it came to vaccine education.
In short, the NBA wants its basketball people — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, potentially as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign. But a large majority of the players are African-American, a community that has been known to be distrustful of vaccines, in large part, because of the shameful history of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other examples of worse treatment and outcomes for Black men and women in encounters with the medical community than whites received.
Marc Stein: "This is one shot I won't block." -- Celtics legend @RealBillRussell takes the COVID-19 vaccine in the NBA's latest PSA ... joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gregg Popovich in the league's campaign: youtube.com/watch?v=CfOG24…
Tim Reynolds: Bill Russell has become the latest NBA legend to announce he's been vaccinated for COVID-19. "This is one shot I won't block," the 11-time NBA champion said, adding "No Celtics were harmed during my shot." The ring GOAT speaks here: youtu.be/CfOG24IkuCo (ps: his Kobe hat!)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Which is why any suggestion to speed up the process of inoculating N.B.A. players is a tricky social, economic and political proposal. I don’t agree with Charles Barkley that professional athletes “deserve some preferential treatment” because of how “much taxes these players pay.” That argument suggests that the lives of those who make more money (and presumably pay more taxes) are somehow more valuable than the nurses, police officers, emergency medical workers, grocery clerks, and others risking their lives daily. This is, of course, untrue. N.B.A. players don’t deserve to move to the front of the line because they are rich or because the country needs basketball during these isolating times. It’s not a matter of deserving as much as a way to get to herd immunity faster.
January 29, 2023 | 7:45 am EST Update
Andrew Lopez: New Orleans Pelicans forward Trey Murphy III has been invited to the NBA dunk contest, multiple sources tell ESPN.
“As much as you try not to put it on the officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult,” Ham said. “There’s a bunch of stuff we could have did better in this game, but for the most part, we competed our behinds off, played the right way, played together, stayed aggressive, playing down, playing in the paint. And it’s unfortunate that the game ends off a play like that.” “We got cheated,” forward Anthony Davis said.
“He fouled him. He fouled him. Clearly. Clearly,” said Davis, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his second game back from injury. “It’s bulls—. But at the end of the day, like, it’s unacceptable. And I guarantee nothing is gonna happen to the refs. We got cheated tonight, honestly. It’s a blatant foul. Pat [Beverly] got all ball on I think Brown — Jaylen Brown. They call a foul. And Bron gets smacked across the arm [and they don’t]. It’s unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad. They were bad tonight.”
Lewis did not care for Beverley’s attempt to provide evidence of the foul and gave him a technical foul. As Beverley walked back to the Lakers bench, he held the camera in the air while pointing at it and looking back at Lewis. “I mean, just ridiculous,” ABC’s Mike Breen said. “And Eric Lewis rightfully T’s him up.”
Sources not authorized to speak publicly said the Lakers were quickly informed by NBA officiating staff after the game that a foul should’ve been called on the play. Later, crew chief Eric Lewis said the officials should’ve whistled a foul. “There was contact,” he told a pool reporter. “At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”
It’s the second time a potential James game-winner went without a call this month; the Lakers learned James should’ve shot free throws after a drive in the first overtime of a two-overtime loss to Dallas. The Lakers also should’ve been granted a potential game-tying free throw when Kendrick Nunn made a three against Sacramento on Jan. 18 with less than 10 seconds left. “It’s been building,” James said after the game. “Because you guys seen some of the games we’ve lost this year with late-game missed calls. We had an opportunity to literally win the game.”