This column on veteran forward Ira Brown appears on the JAPAN Forward website.

By Ed Odeven

The Osaka Evessa, a B. League first-division team, coped with a scary situation earlier this spring. Thirteen members of the Kansai-based basketball organization, including several players, had contracted the coronavirus.

The health scare occurred as a backdrop to a larger story: the 2019-2020 B. League season was suspended twice before the rest of the 60-game campaign was canceled in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The title game was scheduled to be held in May. 

Despite the disappointment of the season’s unusual conclusion, there’s good news from Osaka: all 13 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. The team made the announcement on April 27 without releasing individual names, citing personal privacy in an earlier Twitter post. However, one of the 13, veteran power forward Ira Brown, recently spoke to JAPAN Forward’s “Odds and Evens” in an exclusive interview and recounted his ordeal.

Brown, who turns 38 in August, became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2016. He competed for the Japan national team at the FIBA Asia Challenge that same summer in Tehran, leading the squad in rebounds, steals, and blocks. He’s spent the majority of his pro basketball career in Japan. He previously starred for the Toyama Grouses (2011-2014), Sunrockers Shibuya (2014-2017, though the team was known as the Hitachi Sunrockers until 2016 when the B. League launched), and Ryukyu Golden Kings (2017-2019).

The Evessa announced on their website and social media channels that five players had contracted the virus after sharing a meal with individuals from outside the team on March 24. As reported above, that number increased.

“I just know it was spread among the team,” Brown confirmed by phone from Osaka, acknowledging he couldn’t give detailed specifics, such as a particular meal or location that might have been the catalyst.

But Brown pointed to March 25 as the approximate date when COVID-19 symptoms became apparent to several people on the team.

“That’s when everybody was saying that they felt something a bit different,” Brown said before returning to Texas for the off-season.

The 193-cm (6-foot-7) former minor league pitcher, however, didn’t notice coronavirus symptoms until April 1.

What happened?

“That’s when I started really understanding that I was losing my sense of taste and smell,” Brown said.

A day later, he developed a fever and it reached 37 degrees Celsius. But he didn’t develop additional COVID-19 symptoms.

Brown said the Evessa followed proper protocol by checking each player’s temperatures, recorded every morning and after practice at 4:30 P.M., among other precautionary measures.

“It’s just unfortunate that, obviously, it’s a disease or a virus which you can’t really detect right away, so once they started seeing players having symptoms, then they went about canceling practice and everything…and then the season was actually over. So we weren’t able to continue,” he said.

Self-quarantine in Osaka

After showing signs of having the coronavirus, Brown realized he needed to be extra careful ー for himself and for others in Kansai.

“I knew that I had to quarantine [for 14 days], because I didn’t want to spread it anywhere else,” confessed Brown, a two-time B. League Dunk Contest champion (2017, 2018) during All-Star Weekend. 

During limited trips outside of his apartment, Brown, who is single, wore a face mask when he went to buy groceries. He cooked for himself while under self-quarantine.

Was it a difficult experience?

No, he insisted.

“The only thing was I slept a lot because I knew that I had to sleep and I was bored sitting around,” said Brown, who was named to the bj-league Best Five Team in 2013-2014, when he averaged 16.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. “But obviously my biggest thing was, while I was reading and studying things, was to stay as warm as possible, make sure I bundled up in blankets, took hot baths.” 

He also used essential oils, purchased a humidifier, and utilized the indoor comfort of a Joov light (red-light therapy). “If I’m not getting sun rays,” Brown explained, “I have this machine called Joov to pretty much give me everything equivalent and a little more than what the sun rays give you.”

In addition, Brown drank fresh juice every morning to help combat the virus, while also increasing his vitamin intake. He mentioned that vitamins A, C, and D are considered “particularly important” for dealing with the coronavirus. He concocted a garlic-ginger tea with lemon as an additional boost for his health.

Brown maintained a proactive approach in his quest to gain knowledge about COVID-19 and “how to kick this virus in the rear end.”

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