Basketball: Rudy Gobert, gold under the baskets



It is the winding conclusion of a year punctuated by an incredible emotional lift. This Sunday, December 20, Rudy Gobert signed a colossal contract with his team of Utah Jazz, the professional basketball franchise from Salt Lake City: $ 205 million over five years (167.7 million euros). In other words, € 75,000… per day, ie double his salary for the previous period (2016-2021).

A contract which only benefits a handful of players in the NBA championship and which crowns a funny season for the French pivot. After participating in the All-Star Game in February, the match that brings together the best players in the American championship every year, Rudy Gobert found himself at the center of a media whirlwind. On March 11, he tested positive for the coronavirus. Immediately, the NBA shuts down. The French become the face of the disease. Worse, the champion joked awkwardly about the virus, a few days earlier, at a press conference. On social networks, insults and threats are raining down. His apologies go wrong. Rudy Gobert appears as the unwitting hero of general awareness.

Making the father’s dream come true

On this side of the Atlantic, this highlight makes more noise than the sports results of the giant (2.16 m, size 53) – who still won three bronze medals with the Blues (2014 Worlds and 2019, Euro 2015). Because if it progresses steadily towards the tops of the NBA since 2013, its notoriety in France remains quite relative. His journey is nevertheless striking.

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The story begins in a T3, on the second floor of an HLM building in Saint-Quentin (Aisne) where Corinne Gobert is raising her three children alone, Vanessa and Romain, born from a first marriage, and Rudy. Life is not easy every day, but of these early years, Rudy Gobert does not make a miserable story. He especially evokes the sacrifices of his mother, hairdresser, whose credo is: everything for education. Sporty in particular.

Rudy is very active, so it will be judo, athletics and boxing. What about basketball? Not necessarily. His father, Rudy Bourgarel, returned to his native Guadeloupe when his son was 2 years old, was himself a basketball player. He had dreamed of the NBA, tried his luck three years across the Atlantic in the university championship, missed the boat, returned to France where he had dragged this failure in various clubs, before giving up. “Not going to the NBA destroyed him”, recently told Rudy Gobert.

A determination to progress

But the genes speak. The sire was 2.13 m tall and Rudy in the sixth grade is already a big pole. A doctor therefore advises him to grow under the baskets. He is moving forward, step by step, but with a firm will. He first plays in teams around his home; then signed to Cholet, a major training club, in 2007, before playing his first pro match in 2010, at the age of 18. With, throughout his career, the gaze focused on the NBA.

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In 2013, he was “drafted” (selected) by Denver, who immediately made an exchange with the Jazz. This is Rudy in Mormon country. Seven years later, it is still there. He shows himself to be faithful. First of all, to its principles. The champion remains discreet, without bling-bling swerves. He works hard. To tame its large body, gain power and establish itself as something other than a control tower capable only of defending and “dunking” (the smashes facilitated by its size). He wants to progress, again and again, to lead his team, to the still virgin record, to the NBA title.

He is also committed. In support of Black Lives Matter in the United States and Secours populaire in France, of which he has been a partner for four years. Bad tongues evoke calculated communication. Him swear “Also wanting to leave a mark outside the field”, if possible exemplary.

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He wrote it in a thank you letter after signing his contract. “I came to the United States with the values ​​my mom instilled in us: 1) always be true to yourself, 2) respect and be kind to others, 3) by working hard, you can accomplish anything. “ In short, the embodiment of the “American Dream”. That still leaves skeptics on this side of the Atlantic. Rudy Gobert is not annoyed. He is moving forward. He can see far.

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A “supermax” contract

Pharaonic contracts like the one just signed Rudy Gobert, the NBA has only ten. These so-called contracts “Supermax”, implemented only in 2017, require many parameters to be negotiated. They can be offered for a period of four or five years to players who have been loyal for seven or eight years to the club where they signed as “Rookie” (beginner) and with a one-year contract left. To qualify, players must claim a trophy for best player (MVP) in the previous three years, best defenseman or a selection in the three All-NBA teams (the best players of a season) in both. previous years. The player can suddenly negotiate a salary that can exceed the salary cap by 35% (salary cap), with an additional 8% each year. With the Jazz since the summer of 2013 for a contract ending in June 2021, and with two best defenseman titles in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 and three selections in the All-NBA, including last season, Rudy Gobert was a of the only two players ticking the right boxes this year.

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