Ricky Rubio’s pause | Sports

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At 32 years old and after 18 as a professional basketball player, Ricky Rubio has stopped the high-speed train of his life and his career due to a mental health problem. His decision was so unexpected that even his teammates and his coaches went unnoticed about his condition, despite the fact that they had already met to prepare for the World Cup that begins on August 25.

Getting off at this point in the vital and professional journey of an elite athlete is becoming more and more common. It has happened to Simone Biles, Michael Phelps or Álex Abrines. The proliferation of this type of disorder is symptomatic and worrisome. And its detection is very difficult. “It annoys me that I didn’t realize it. I have been with him and we have not been able to see him ”, said his friend and captain of the national team Rudy Fernández.

Ricky’s beginnings were forged in soccer, but he quickly realized that it was not his thing and he followed in the footsteps of his father Esteve, a former player and basketball coach, and his brother Marc, also a player, as was later his sister Laia. When the 14 years, 11 months and 24 days old boy became the youngest to debut in the ACB League on October 15, 2005, he already predicted a promising future. But there are many who aim high at those ages and very few who succeed. For example, there were those who predicted that the star was going to be his brother Marc de él, who became a fixture in the lower categories of the Spanish teams.

The first steps in Ricky’s career were dizzying. He won everything in Europe, first with Joventut, the club that rocked him in his cradle, and later with Barcelona. And also with the national team, with a World title in which he was the MVP, two in the European and an Olympic silver. In the NBA he has played 12 seasons in which, weighed down by misfortunes, the fluctuations of teams and injuries, his glimpses did not obtain full recognition. But no one gets wrong. He has been the best takeaway percentage in the NBA three times and, of the active players, only a star like Chris Paul has more throughout his career. Ricky has put eight seasons in the top ten of the list of assists and is the tenth most active player in the NBA accumulates. He has amassed a total of 128 million dollars in salary (about 117 million euros) in the five NBA teams in which he has played. He still has one year on his contract guaranteed and the option for another year with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

At this point, how is it possible that a player like him, who has achieved so many victories despite having had to battle so many adversities in his personal and professional life, had to say enough? Often, not even the athlete himself is capable of arguing what is happening to him. Something is wrong with him, although he does not know to what extent this emotional disorder conditions him. Precisely for this reason, Ricky has deemed it appropriate to step aside.

His career has been very special, starting with his amazing precocity. However, in the same way that Ricky, at 14 years old, was not intimidated by giants of 2.08 or 2.12 meters of 30 or 35 years old, his good sense, character and personality surprised from the first moment also outside the basketball court.

Aíto García Reneses, his first coach in the elite and Joventut, wanted to protect him from that incipient fame and forbade him to speak to the press. But, in 2006, in Linares, while the senior team began the road to their first World Cup title in Japan, Ricky led the Under 16s to the title of European champion with an anthological game: 51 points, 24 rebounds and a triple to force the first of the two extensions and the victory in the final against Russia. He stood before the journalists with self-confidence and an eloquence superior to that of many veterans. At the age of 17, already at the absolute level, next to players whose posters he had in his room at home, such as Pau Gasol, he admitted the dose of realism that his dizzying career required: “It’s easy for you to lose heart.” head. Thanks to my family I keep my feet on the ground”.

He wowed the world, starting in the final against the United States and becoming, in Beijing, the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal. He completed his graduation in the Euroleague, taking the reins of a team that left its mark: Barça in 2010. And he began his journey in the NBA with Minnesota.

His family always supported him. His mother, Tona, initially handled many of her professional affairs, including her jam-packed media engagement schedule. In 2012 Tona, who was not a smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She passed away in May 2016. She was 56 years old. It was a tremendous blow for Ricky, who suffered from depression. “I was very lost,” he said. “I considered many things, including quitting basketball, because I wasn’t excited.” But the promise that he made to his mother, to help people who suffer from this disease, and especially children, served as a shock to him.

In October 2015, Flipp Saunders, his coach in Minnesota, had already died, also due to cancer. In a letter published in November 2019, the point guard from El Masnou recalled: “Three days before the season began, we were in Los Angeles preparing to play against the Lakers. We were told that Flip had passed away. It was a very hard day. And I thought of mom. By then his cancer had returned ”. And already, in reference to the loss of Tona, he continued: “That season was hell. When someone you love dies, it’s like a mist envelops you. So it was for me. I felt disoriented. I blamed everything.”

Fight against cancer

In July 2018, he launched the Ricky Rubio Foundation against cancer in Barcelona, ​​together with Víctor Claver, whose father Paco, a well-known former player and handball coach, died in 2011 from this disease, and also together with the singer Pau Donés, who died in June 2020. “A child’s smile keeps me going. This is how I perform. It’s what mom would have wanted.”

Injuries also disrupted Ricky’s career in a very important way. The two most serious affected the ligaments in his left knee. The first, in March 2012, after a clash with Kobe Bryant in a game against the Lakers, kept him off the pitch until December of that year and prevented him from playing in the London Games in which Spain once again won the gold medal. silver after losing in the final to the United States. The second occurred in December 2021. He spent another year off the slopes and missed the Eurobasket that Spain won in Berlin in September 2022.

But before, in July 2021, he was about to give up competing in the Tokyo Games. “I owed it to my family. Because I had had my son and because mentally it was a very tough season. I told Scariolo to shoot without me. But I had a hard time even sleeping. My wife, who knows me better than anyone, convinced me. That is why I called Scariolo again and asked him if he could still enter into his plans ”. The coach, who always trusted Ricky, took the question lightly and explained the conversation: “What are you telling me?” I replied. That is also a demonstration of his humility and of how he is as a person ”.

The point guard was the Spanish leader in scoring and assists in Tokyo. With 38 points against the USA, he obtained the record for a Spanish player in an Olympic event: he surpassed Pau Gasol’s 37. Ricky will miss the next World Cup in Indonesia and the Philippines and now everyone expects him to be fit enough to join his team, the Cavaliers, when the NBA returns in October. Koby Altman, athletic director at Ohio, released a statement in which he concluded: “Difficult roads always lead to beautiful destinations. We’re with you, Ricky.”

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