LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic announced on Instagram Saturday that his grandmother had passed away from the coronavirus. The news comes less than two hours before he and the Blazers were set to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA’s first-ever play-in game.
“Every one of the best,” wrote Nurkic, in a translation of a caption accompanying a pair of pictures of him with his grandmother that he posted. “[sic] we are all God and we return to him.”
Nurkic started Saturday afternoon’s game as Portland tries to clinch the eighth seed in the Western Conference and earn a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
He has talked openly about the grief he’s felt as his grandmother has dealt with the illness while he’s been inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort, first revealing to the world that she was sick after Portland lost to Boston on Aug. 2.
“I’m praying for her,” Nurkic said that day. “It’s family. Obviously the court is the safest place for me. I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s not going to change my mindset. It will be the same when I’m on the floor.”
Portland either has to win Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon against Memphis to earn the eighth seed in the West. Memphis will have to win both games to make the playoffs.