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Rudy Gobert: The leader the Utah Jazz and the NBA need

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Cry about it, or don’t. Either one is perfectly okay.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, Rudy Gobert was not named to the NBA All-Star team. It hurt him and his mother on many levels. It hurt Jazz fans. It also hurt the Jazz organization.

Mychal wrote an excellent article about the changes Dennis Lindsey would like to see changed in the process of choosing All-Star reserves. It would be a big step in avoiding an egregious mistake like Gobert not being selected.

Gobert was justifiably upset about not being chosen. Here is what he had to say:

Rudy on the snub:

Rudy showed emotion. He cried. He did not cry because he was missing out on a million dollar bonus. He cried because he was thinking about his mother’s response. Rudy and his mother are close. She made many sacrifices to help Rudy reach his goal of playing in the NBA. When Rudy was 13 years old he joined an academy for Saint-Quentin’s best basketball players. He joined their basketball club and trained mostly as a member of their junior team. During this time he only saw his family on the weekends. Rudy was not a natural.

From ESPN’s Tim MacMahon:

Orlando Magic swingman Evan Fournier, Gobert’s best friend in the NBA, remembers his buddy at the tender age of 13, staying after practices, his competitive spirit lit even then. It’s hard to imagine -- now that Gobert is among the NBA’s tallest, a half-foot taller than Fournier -- but at that time Fournier was the taller of the two. Nevertheless, Gobert was determined to dunk. He failed over and over again but made an impression by relentlessly keeping at it.

”As a kid, he was not necessarily confident,” Fournier said. “But he was always competitive.”

At 15, Rudy was chosen to tryout for INSEP (France’s most prestigious sports academy) . Players like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw went to INSEP. Rudy did not make it, he struggled as a wing player, they told him he was not yet physically or mentally ready. After not making INSEP he decided to train with Cholet’s junior team, which was five hours from his home. Rudy hit a growth spurt. Between the ages of 15 and 18 Rudy grew 8 inches. During that time he began training as a big, that changed his basketball fortunes. In 2010-2011 he started training with Cholet’s senior team. In 2010 he was also selected to play in the FIBA Under-18 tournament where he was France’s best young player. In 2013 he declared for the NBA draft. We all know and love his story since the draft.

Years ago I watched a documentary about Rudy on YouTube. I was unable to find it for this downbeat. Maybe some of you remember me including the link when I watched it years ago. It was wonderful, I wish I could find it now. It gave great insight into the relationship he had with his mother as a youth and as an adult. The closeness that Rudy shares with his mother was very apparent in the documentary. As a mother myself of two teenagers its heart warming to think about the relationship Rudy has with his mom.

I can picture the phone conversation that Rudy and his mother had on Thursday evening after the reserves were announced and he was not among them. I can picture them thinking of everything they had to sacrifice for Rudy to make it to the NBA. Tears were shed, tender words were shared. I imagine Rudy thought of all the times he has been rejected in his basketball career, maybe he thought of the 15 year old Rudy who was not good enough for INSEP. Maybe he was thinking about the young draft pick who was relegated to the D-League because of an incompetent coach. It had to be hard thinking of how far he had come being the reining Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA and not making it. Being the player the leads the league in win shares and not making it. Being the player that was the force behind the Jazz’s historic 29-6 finish last season and yet he still did not make it.

On Friday after the announcement, Rudy was asked about not being selected to the All-Star game. Rudy became emotional and some tears fell. I find it beautiful that Rudy cares that much. That he loves his mother so much that he was hurt that she was so hurt. I love that the leader of the Utah Jazz is in-tune enough of his emotions and open enough to not hide how he is feeling.

As the news came out that Rudy cried, some in the NBA world were not kind. Draymond Green was the ring leader of the close-mindedness, backwards responses.

Fellow Golden State Warrior’s teammate Andre Iguodala responded with this tweet:

Other current NBA players being insensitive were Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner:

Former NBA player Shaq had this response:

I am so bothered by this. It’s hard for me to believe that in 2019, in a day when we are preaching tolerance, acceptance and love—when we are preaching kindness to everyone—that we see this toxic behavior. These men know better than anyone what it takes to make it into the NBA. Their journey may have been different than Rudy’s journey but nevertheless they understand the sacrifices, the commitment, and dedication Rudy has made to get as far as he has.

As a mother of a 13 year old boy, I am grateful he doesn’t care that much about the NBA. I am grateful he doesn’t have to see Rudy treated in such a way. My 14 year old daughter though did see stories about it. It lead to a great conversation with her about emotions, crying, and debunking the myth of “real men”. I was able to share with her the support from Rudy’s teammates and other NBA players that somehow was not shared by the media.

Here are a few:

Cooley retweeted this:

Damian Lillard retweeted this in support of Rudy:

I love to see the support that Rudy received from some players. I am happy to see that not all NBA players are like Draymond Green. I love Rudy and I hate the treatment he is receiving. The NBA is suppose to be the most socially aware professional sports league. The response from the fans, players and media shows that the NBA has a long way to go to make their social and political movements ring less hollow.