This time there it is. A year after having struggled to cope with his non-selection for the All-Star Game, Rudy Gobert will take part, Sunday February 16 in Chicago, in the "game of stars" bringing together the elite of NBA players. The crème de la crème of players in the North American basketball league, whom the French hub of the Utah Jazz is delighted to join, just like him, Tony Parker and Joakim Noah. "It's been a dream since I started basketball, I wanted to be an All-Star. It comes true », savor the French, reached by phone.
Last year, when he was crowned with his first trophy for best defender of the year and a solid start to the season, the NBA coaches – who elect the replacements – had preferred him Karl-Anthony Towns, more prolific player in attack, but evolving in a team chaining defeats.
The French had cracked after what he had denounced as a " lack of respect ", dropping a few tears of frustration and confident that he had written and then deleted several vehement tweets. "The emotion came when I talked about my mother, he related to World in March 2019. People don't expect a 2.15m, 117kg guy to shed a tear, but I'm someone who often shows my emotions in public. "
This year, the Frenchman paid tribute to his father, Rudy Bourgarel, after his selection. On the site The Undefeated, he confided at length the unfulfilled American dream of the latter, trained in the United States, but prevented from being tested by NBA franchises before the 1989 draft for administrative reasons – the France team claimed that he should enter the 'Hexagon perform military service.
Elite defender in temple of attack
By becoming an All-Star, Rudy junior endorses part of his father's dream, who never misses a career from Guadeloupe. But how is he going to thrive during this match of the stars, he who, player with impressive wingspan (2.36 m), is first of all an elite defender, which earned him the nickname of "Stiffle Tower"?
The All-Star Game is indeed above all a spectacle. In general, the All-Stars compete in creativity in attack, multiplying the dunks and other spectacular actions, but leaving aside the defense. "My job is not only defense", relativizes Rudy Gobert, recalling that he has "Broke the dunk record in one season in the NBA last year." He turns this season at 15.6 points per game (plus 14.6 rebounds and 1.9 against).
Chosen by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP (best player of the season), to be part of his team – LeBron James is the captain of the opposing team -, Gobert will evolve alongside many international players: in addition to the "Greak Freak ", Cameroonians Joël Embiid and Pascal Siakam will start the match in the five major of the "Giannis team"
"If I had been Giannis, this is what I would have also tried to do during the team draw", says Gobert, who will be able to share with his partners his experience of having knocked the United States in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in September 2019.
Las, LeBron James did not let the Greek realize his plan and selected in his team several foreign players, starting with the Slovenian Luka Doncic. No big deal for the French hub, who recalls that the All-Star Game – under the sign of Kobe Bryant, whose recent death hit the NBA – is first there to please fans and players. "It’s an accomplishment, for sure, but once you’re there you just have to have fun. And represent France well. "
A three-point shot to honor a bet with Evan Fournier?
When we joined him on Wednesday, Rudy Gobert was preparing to play a game against Miami before "Focus on the All-Star weekend and take advantage of this short break before the second part of the season". Because if the meeting of the stars is a reward that he savored, the French did not make it the main objective of his season.
Leader of a Utah team – with Donovan Mitchell, who brings his first All-Star cape next to him – fourth in the Western Conference, he aspires to finish the regular season in the best possible place. "Our goal is to be even more consistent, while keeping our defensive identity, which is our strength, to go far in the playoffs", asserts the Frenchman, whose team has strengthened, especially in attack, in the offseason.
Twice bronze medalist at the World with the Blues (the second in the fall of 2019), double holder of the statuette of the best defender of the year in the NBA and favorite to achieve the hat-trick, now All-Star… Little by little, Rudy Gobert has forged a track record.
Sunday evening, beyond the stars he will release, he could also win a five-year-old bet, launched with Evan Fournier: if by chance he scores a three points by stepping back in NBA games, his friend and partner in the France team has promised to " to take (her) retirement " parquet floors.
However, if he does not venture to shoot long distance in matches, the pivot formed at Cholet plans to "Take one or two three points, for fun" during the All-Star Game, as Shaquille O’Neal could do. Enough to worry about the back of the Orlando Magic, which confirmed Friday that the bet still holds? "We didn't talk about it, I'll ask her, laughs Gobert. But I admit that ending your career on a three-point in an All-Star Game would be wonderful. "