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RG, and me: The Third Rudy Gobert Story


Even though it’s the offseason, Rudy Gobert is tired. Boxing certainly doesn’t help the fatigue, and he is still recharging from the jubilation of his recent 30th birthday, but there is one thing more draining than the rest. Incessant rumors gnaw at his fortitude, it is a very interesting and unique situation to have the entire world have your name in your mouth, spewing their opinions on what should happen to your life. Interesting, unique… and taxing. He has learned to shut it out, for the most part, but there is only so much you can do to shield yourself against the pervasiveness of the internet. This isn’t the first time he has been in trade rumors, and the NBA business is fueled by the unsleeping rumor mill; he will believe a deal when he sees it. Now, however? It is time to take a long rest, as Rudy puts his phone to the side. On thoughts of loyalty, dedication, and the like, his eyes begin to close for a midday rest.

DING

Slowly, his eyes begin to open, with that vibration making his mind race to conclusions as only his phone could.

DING DING DING

Speechless

For someone as obnoxiously long winded as I, it may surprise you to know that I really can’t find the words to put on the page to describe my thoughts on this situation. Infinite ideas, memories, moments, emotions racing through my mind, with frustratingly finite ways to express them. Part of that can be attributed to the shock. I will always remember where I was when I got the notifications; sitting on a couch on my Grandparents house, listening to Folklore by Taylor Swift (The Last Great American Dynasty, in particular), eyes glazing over as I read the texts and alerts. I knew it was coming, but there was no way for me to know how I would react, no way to prepare. I pride myself on my analysis of basketball, but, initially, I didn’t comprehend (or even attempt to) the returning package, my mind was in an entirely different place, a place that I will try my best to take you to. The translation of this environment from my mind to your screen will not be perfect; it will lack the ages of stunned silence, the memories necessary are mine and mine alone, and I will not be able to replicate the tears. This won’t be as long as my other essays, a complete indoctrination is futile, and this one won’t touch on the basketball side. My other essays were for you, with the goal of teaching others why I care. This one's for me, a bit of DIY therapy, just when I need it most. I hope you enjoy.

Growing, alongside

It is important to know that I am, in my heart of hearts, endlessly sentimental and a hopeless romantic, but you could probably already tell. No, Rudy Gobert did not die, but yes, reading only these writings on the subject could leave you a bit confused, just some necessary warnings before we continue.

I became a Jazz fan around 2013, it may surprise you to learn that I used to root hard for the Washington Wizards. However, the move from Virginia to Utah, to live nearby family who would throw themselves in front of a train for the local team, was very convincing. While I rooted for the Wizards, I wasn’t really a basketball fan yet; I didn’t understand the game, I just enjoyed attending them because it meant it was time to yell and eat nachos. The move was a metamorphosis of sorts, changing me from someone who “cared” to someone who cared. That metamorphosis happened to coincide with another important change; Rudy Gobert was drafted #27 in the 2013 NBA Draft. I remember that draft watch party in Salt Lake City, I remember the lankiness and obvious lack of coordination that practically oozed from him. I remember the incremental growth, very similar to the growth I was going through in the trajectory of my life. I remember the flashes, the day Enes Kanter was traded and (after I got the bitter taste of his bitter comments out of my mouth) the pure jubilation that followed. I remember watching every game, watching the Man in the Middle figure it out on the fly, and watching other teams figure out that the paint in Salt Lake City was not a place for the faint of heart. I remember the Hassan vs. Rudy arguments, and I remember how quickly they were extinguished. I remember fantasizing about the future of the Dante Exum/Rudy Gobert pick and roll, and I remember making Rudy Gobert’s block on Andrew Wiggins my Gmail profile picture the second I could find the image online. I remember the triumph when he won his first defensive player of the year, he had climbed the mountain top, and I had watched every single second of it. There is something indescribable about going through immense personal growth (growth oftentimes centered around basketball, it was my life) while viewing that very same growth go on in the life of one of your heroes. He felt like a close friend, even when I had never said a word to him outside of various Meet-And-Greets throughout the years. I certainly went to bat for him like he was a friend, almost losing friendships when they couldn’t understand my points as to why Rudy Gobert wasn’t terribly in the wrong when it comes to COVID 19. Some of the best basketball memories that I have are centered around Rudy Gobert’s accomplishments: each of his DPOYs (his defeat of Ben Simmons holds a special place in my heart), his iconic blocks (the Marcus Morris and Ja Morant ones are my personal favorites), and his consistent demolition of the rim (his dunk on Jonas Valanciunas still gives me goosebumps. However, what sticks out the most is his constant and obvious love of Utah, and its people. From his video blasting the Hayward decision to the iconic quotes (“We will be fine” and “F* the talk”, for reference) the one thing that wavered less than his defensive dominance (and the never ending disrespect) was his cherishment of the Utah Jazz, even when the world was against us, and him in particular (I talked about this extensively in my first two pieces on Rudy Gobert and don’t feel the need to get into it again, the dislikes I got from talking about the xenophobia element of it all is also something that I don’t necessarily want to replicate). Going through this simultaneous growth, me learning to better go to bat for Rudy Gobert while he learns to better go to bat on the basketball court, is something that I will never forget. Fighting for Gobert gave me life, and it didn’t hurt that he’s dang good at basketball.

Torn

The Jazz now have the Minnesota Timberwolves first round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029, with only the latter being protected. This naturally brings the impulse to prey on the Timberwolves downfall, as every loss added to their side of the scale helps the side of the Jazz inch higher and higher into greatness.

I’m sorry, I just can’t.

I want the Twin Towers of Minnesota to be dominant. I want Rudy Gobert to prove to a new fan base that he is a top 6 defender of all time. I want everything to fit together perfectly while the Timberwolves win a championship, and I want to not care that that means that Jazz get the 30th pick. Rudy Gobert is my favorite basketball player of all time, and while I know this trade is good for the Jazz, I am mainly looking forward to seeing him finding success in a whole new situation, because I know he will. At the end of the day, after this whole ordeal, all I have to say is thank you. Thank you for caring, when no one would blame you for throwing the towel. Thank you for the memories, memories that have a permanent residence in my mind. Thank you for believing in yourself, creating one of the best stories of player transformation the league has ever seen. Thank you for the beautiful basketball, basketball that I was consistently excited to see. And above all, thank you for the emotions, emotions I didn’t ever expect to feel for a player transaction.

I can’t wait till the day that you come back to Salt Lake City, to rebuild Swat Lake City for one more night. I will be there for the 2023 All Star Game, and I fully expect to be a wreck. And the day that #27 hangs in the rafters, the number that you picked because of your draft position, a blazing symbol of the passion and work ethic that defines a large portion of Jazz basketball, will be a day of momentous celebration, and one that I am already reserving a spot for in the mental files of my many RG memories.

Go get Minnesota a championship, big guy. We’ll all be rooting for you.

The Next Step

Rudy Gobert plops his phone onto his bed after finishing a call with his agent. A whirlwind of emotions is leaving a path of destruction through his brain, and it isn’t obvious where he should start the reconstruction process. His memories of Utah push to the forefront, with other memories of playing against his new Minnesota teammates jockeying for prime position as well. For a split second, he allowed himself to ponder on market sizes; he never got his respect in Utah because of the lack of national attention, how will Minnesota be any different? Will people forever disregard the importance of defense, of the little things, of heart? But quickly, he disregards it. Because now, its time to lift another franchise on his shoulders.

It’s time to get to work.


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