Wisconsin health officials have reportedly linked hundreds of coronavirus cases in the state to large gatherings around the Milwaukee Bucks' title run in the late spring and into the summer.
The development surfaced in a new Rolling Stone report detailing a "secret" coronavirus outbreak affecting several employees and at least one player within the Bucks and Phoenix Suns organizations during the NBA Finals.
The article, authored by longtime basketball writer Matt Sullivan, cites the "most pit" in Milwaukee's Deer District, outside Fiserv Forum, as a flashpoint for the transmission of the virus. Fans gathered in huge numbers in the area, which is home to several bars and restaurants, before and after postseason games.
The Wisconsin Department of Health told Rolling Stone that it has linked 659 confirmed cases and 133 probable cases of Covid to the mosh pit.
The Finals coincided with a Delta variant-fueled surge in cases in both Milwaukee and Phoenix, the story says. Employees from both franchises were sidelined during the series after testing positive, the report said, including at least one assistant coach and one seldom-used but important player -- Milwaukee's Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the brother of Giannis.
At the time, Giannis' vaccination status was unclear to all but a few Bucks officials, the story said, causing widespread fear within the organization that Giannis too would return a positive. It didn't come to pass, though, and Giannis confirmed at the outset of this season that he's since been inoculated.
The Bucks were among the NBA's most vigilant teams in policing their own adherence to virus protocols, according to Sullivan, but they eased up once they reached the conference finals, so as to allow players to be joined by their families.
Meanwhile, mask mandates and limitations on indoor gatherings were being gradually eased during May and June, apparently providing the perfect storm for the surge in cases.