The world watched as Rudy Gobert stood on the stage of the NBA Awards show in Santa Monica, California Monday evening and accepted the trophy for Defensive Player of the Year. Sporting a bright pink, extra, extra, extra-tall designer suit, Gobert held the DPOY trophy in one hand as he tried to find adequate words to complete his acceptance speech for the award. He thanked his mom, Quin Snyder, his teammates, and the rest of the Utah Jazz organization. In a humble tone, he mentioned how incredible his journey to that point in his life had been. As Gobert stood up there, crowned the best defensive player in the league in front of the basketball world to see, I came to a sudden realization that there was nobody in the NBA like Rudy Gobert.
He simply just doesn’t belong in today’s NBA. In an era that created the small-ball, stretch-four, positionless players, and countless spacing tacticts, someone like Gobert might sit on the outside looking in, cursing his luck for not being born in prior generations. After being selected 27th in the 2013 NBA Draft, it could have been easy to give up with the excuse that he just didn’t belong. But instead of using his unique differences as a crutch, Gobert used them as a mutant-like strength and it lit a fire within him to destroy everything in his path.
He used his god-given length and mental fortitude to become the first D-League player to be named to an All-NBA squad when he received his 2nd-team selection in 2017. His drive pushed him to be named to back-to-back NBA All-Defensive teams, becoming the third player in franchise history to be named to multiple All-D first teams behind Mark Eaton and Karl Malone. His leadership and impact brought the Jazz back from what seemed like a lottery finish this past season, and lifted them into the playoffs and a first round victory. Most recently Gobert used his incredible sense of style as he posed for photos with the DPOY trophy in hand following the NBA Awards show. In a league that Rudy Gobert doesn’t belong in, he sure seems to be doing just fine.
There are many different styles of leadership in today’s NBA. You have guys like LeBron James, whose basketball IQ mixed with an incredible sense of awareness and intuition cause everyone to shut up and listen when he talks and leads his squad. There’s guys like Draymond Green, who are loud, intense, and emotional, using as many f-words as possible as they give direction and set the tone for their teams. Much like the case with his play style, Gobert’s leadership is unique and specific to his personality. His quiet, humble, yet bold and powerful attitude has been the base and foundation of the Utah Jazz team for the past several years. His positive outlook and vision despite low points and struggles has been something that has lifted his organization several times over the last couple of seasons. When they lost their lone All-Star and franchise cornerstone last summer, Gobert remained cool and composed, never losing faith in what he knew they were still capable of. He assured fans that everything would be okay without Gordon Hayward, and even posted this hilariously-timed video of him jamming out to the perfect song for the moment.
It was in this fragile moment in many Jazz fans’ hearts that Rudy Gobert arose and pulled them out from the ashes. It was in this moment that Rudy Gobert stepped up as the alpha, saying “this is my team”. He convinced everyone that things would be fine without Hayward, and that they weren’t going anywhere as far as a drop off from playing competitive NBA basketball. He made it clear that as long as he was there, Utah would compete. Even though many doubted Gobert’s ability to lead a team with a limited offensive skillset, he proved them wrong yet again, somehow. As he had done multiple times over his career, Gobert’s drive and motivation to overcome adversity and doubt catapulted him right over the haters.
Gobert faced plenty of adversity this season when he went down with not one, but two knee injuries that sidelined him for a large chunk of games. When the Jazz dropped to the gutters of the NBA standings earlier this year in January, Gobert knew they weren’t being themselves. He knew they could be better. He itched to get back on the floor and help his team. After an ugly loss and dropping to the low of lows, Gobert took to twitter to lift the franchise up. He tweeted a calm assurance that shook Jazz fans and gave the whole organization a revived sense of hope.
We will be fine— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) January 6, 2018
I remember reading this tweet that night, and somehow believing him.He just wasn’t about to go out like that. These four words encompass everything that Rudy Gobert means to the Utah Jazz. Everyone knows that as long as Rudy Gobert is around, everything will be fine. His teammates know that as long as he’s on the floor with them, it’s okay if they miss a defensive assignment or close-out, Gobert will be there to swat it at the rim. They know it’s fine if they miss a layup at the rim on the other end, Rudy will be there to snatch up the offensive rebound and slam it back home. Jazz fans know that as long as Gobert is on the floor, their odds of winning the basketball game are fairly high. With Gobert on your team, everything will be fine.
Quite possibly the best thing about Rudy Gobert is his desire to become a champion. But he doesn’t want to take the easy route and simply join a team that’s already favored to win a title. He wants to earn it. He wants to bring it to Salt Lake City, Utah- to the fans and organization that gave him professional basketball life. When asked about his desire to win a championship and if he would join another team to do so, Gobert swatted it out of the air just like he does on the court.
Someone in the media asked Rudy Gobert if he would join a superteam. Gobert didn't seem very interested. pic.twitter.com/KKuxY8pxjJ— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) June 26, 2018
This single quote is everything that you need to know about Rudy Gobert. He sees a championship in Utah’s future, and based on how his past predictions have gone, you can’t help but believe the man. His loyalty to the Utah Jazz has been notable in his comments about the organization and his desire to win championships here. In today’s NBA you can never be sure that anyone will stick around forever, but based on his comments and how he feels about his team and this organization, it could be in the stars to have the number 27 one day hanging in the rafters.
Rudy Gobert might not fit in today’s NBA. He might not be able to stretch the floor like Anthony Davis. He might not be able to run the fast break and euro-step over everyone like Giannis Antetokounmpo. He might not abe able to splash a three-pointer like Steph Curry. He might not be able to hesi-double-crossover like Kyrie Irving. But it’s pretty clear that isn’t who Rudy Gobert wants to be. He doesn’t want to comply with this new age of basketball. He wants to win a chamionship, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get one and bring it home to Utah. It’s quite clear that Gobert, instead of wanting to fit in with today’s NBA, actually wants to destroy it. And it’s beautiful.