Rudy Gobert has made a living on proving people wrong. He’s been passed on, overlooked, underappreciated, and misevaluated. This has shaped his entire being and made him the intense competitor that he is.
Gobert was selected 27th in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, later to be traded to the Utah Jazz for a second-round pick and cash considerations. 26 NBA prospects were drafted before Gobert, and he hasn’t forgotten about it. He wears the number 27 on his jersey to keep him reminded of this and to maintain his mental edge in preparing, training, and performing. Gobert now towers over the entire 2013 draft class, and has the most win shares out of any pick with 30.4.
Draft night was just the beginning of Gobert’s journey against critics and experts. He was sent to the NBA D-League during his rookie year after not appearing ready to play at an NBA level. He only appeared in 45 games for the Jazz during the 2013-14 season, and averaged under 10 minutes a game in those stints. The Jazz went 25-57 that season while Gobert rode the bench and hopped back and forth between the D-League. This didn’t stop Gobert from improving, as he continued to fuel his fire and work harder each day, with hopes of one day proving everyone wrong.
This hard work paid off immensely for Gobert in the following season, and he proved he was an NBA-caliber player. He played in all 82 games for the Jazz in the 2014-15 season, and increased in nearly every statistical category, averaging eight points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in 26.3 minutes per game. Gobert finished third in the NBA’s Most Improved Player voting, and had already proven many wrong at that point in his career. But he wasn’t finished.
He came out strong again in 2015-16, but was hindered by an MCL injury that kept him out of 21 games. Gobert continued to show the NBA that he was a force to be reckoned with, and occasionally graced national highlights with ruthless swat, big-time dunks, and thunderous alley-oops. The Jazz missed the playoffs by a sliver that season, and that drove Gobert even more as that was one of his highest goals as a leader of the team.
2016-17 was Rudy Gobert’s coming out party. He exploded onto the scene for many casual NBA fans, and showed strong signs of improvement in nearly every area. During most of the season he led the NBA in blocks, defensive box plus-minus, and defensive win shares. Being an acclaimed “one-way player”, Gobert also spent time as the league leader in offensive rating, field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. He proved many critics wrong with his offensive improvement in 2016, averaging 14 points per game on an incredible 66 percent. But even then, it was not enough to convince players, coaches, media and fans of him being worthy of an NBA All-Star bid.
Gobert missed a deserving spot as an All-Star in New Orleans, and continued to wreak havoc on the NBA in the months following his snub. In the month of March, Gobert posted outrageous stat lines including his 35 point, 15 rebound, 4 block performance on March 22nd against the New York Knicks. He also posted a 16 point, 23 rebound, 3 block, 3 steal performance against the Sacramento Kings on March 5th in a game in which he tipped in the winning basket at the buzzer. Gobert used the All-Star snub to motivate him even more, which was painful for many NBA teams. His incredible push post-All-Star Game helped him to second team All-NBA of which he deservedly earned.
After an incredible 2016-17 season, Rudy Gobert was named a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. His performance and statistics backed up a solid argument for his winning of the awards, but again Gobert fell short. Golden State’s Draymond Green was selected as DPOY, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected as Most Improved Player.
Now with former Jazzman Gordon Hayward out of the picture, Gobert has the world in his hands as Utah’s lone leader. With the loss of Hayward and veteran guard George Hill, many have already counted the Jazz out in an incredibly tough Western Conference. Gobert has made it clear that he doesn’t plan on the Jazz falling from grace any time soon.
Gobert has made a habit of ‘liking’ slander and disrespect on Twitter, maintaining the chip on his shoulder. Several individuals have criticized Gobert’s ability to carry a team with Hayward gone. Gobert has also liked several tweets that aimed at ranking NBA teams, all of which had the Jazz very low and out of playoff contention.
He is not. Cannot carry a team by himself.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 5, 2017
At the moment I see the West tiers as:— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) July 19, 2017
SAS / HOU / OKC
MIN / POR / DEN
LAC / MEM / NOP
UTA / DAL
PHX / LAL / SAC
These are just two of several examples. You can find a plethora of Gobert hate tweets by simply going through all of his ‘liked’ tweets.
This disrespect shouldn’t be unfamiliar for Gobert, who has faced similar criticism throughout his entire NBA career. From what we can tell, he remembers comments, tweets, segments, and articles that question his ability as an NBA player, as well as his team’s ability to compete this upcoming season.
The NBA in it’s entirety has not yet experienced the summit of Rudy Gobert’s game, which should be a terrifying thought. Now with a pass-first point guard at the helm in Ricky Rubio, Gobert is in position to have his best season yet. If there’s anything that NBA personalities should have learned over the last couple of years, it’s not to mess with Rudy Gobert. Obviously some have not heeded this warning, and they should soon experience the great and dreadful wrath of Rudy Gobert.