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Rudy Gobert fulfills season-long goal to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year award: ‘It’s a great honor’

Corinne Gobert and Rudy Bourgarel welcomed their son Rudy Gobert into the world on June 26, 1992, in Saint-Quentin, France.

The day before his 26th birthday on Monday, their 7-foot-1 son stood tall on the stage at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California as the NBA's 2017-18 Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

“First of all, it’s a great honor for me to be here tonight,” Gobert told the crowd, in his stylish custom-fitted hot pink suit. “Having all these great people all around me, great players.

“If I would’ve thought 15 years ago that I would’ve been here today, I probably wouldn’t believe it.”

Corinne Gobert doesn’t speak English and wasn’t in attendance to witness her baby boy hold the trophy as she’s back home in France, but Gobert thanked his mom immediately.

“Hopefully people are going to put some good subtitles for me,” Gobert joked on stage. “I want to thank (Jazz coach) Quin (Snyder) for believing in me since he got here, all the Jazz organization, the owners, the staff, the city for embracing me and making me feel back home.”

Despite missing 26 games with two knee injuries, Gobert returned to lead the Jazz to a second-round playoff appearance as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. He beat out New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid to join Mark Eaton as the second Jazzman in franchise history to win the award.

Gobert was also the top vote-getter for the NBA All-Defensive First Team after averaging 13.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 swats per game. Utah ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating and Gobert ranked fourth in total blocks despite playing 56 games, which where were the fewest by a Defensive Player of the Year winner in a non-lockout season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“I’m very excited for the future and proud to be representing the Jazz,” Gobert said. “Thank you.”

Gobert’s teammates Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio were also finalists for the Rookie of the Year and the Seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist awards. However, Mitchell would finish behind Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Rubio fell to Golden State’s Kevin Durant.

"I'd like to thank my family to start off with. Family, friends, I would be here without them,” Simmons said after winning. “And, my teammates of course and my great coach and the city of Philadelphia for really embracing me and my family so thank you."

Snyder was another finalist for Coach of the Year, but former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, now coach of the Detroit Pistons, would win the award. Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams won the Sixth Man Award and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was honored as the league’s Most Improved Player. Houston’s James Harden took home the big daddy of all trophies when he was named the league's MVP.

“First of all, I’d just like to say thank you to all the writers and also to Brad (Stevens) and Quin (Snyder) who are two outstanding coaches and to the rest of the coaches in the NBA,” Casey said. “We have a lot of great coaches in the league.”

Utah surprised many with a 48-34 finish after starting 19-28. After Gobert returned from his second knee injury on Jan. 19, the squad went on a 30-8 run with the league’s top defensive rating (97.5) during that stretch. His goal from the start of the season was to win the award and he sees the Jazz competing for a title, sooner than later.

“I mean, defense to me is something that when you watch a game you don't really pay attention to defense unless you're very — unless you're a specialist. People watch the points, they watch the highlights,” Gobert told reporters after receiving the award. “But the defense I think helps the offense. I think when you're a very good defensive team — it's very rare a team wins a championship when you're not a very good defensive team. I think when you're a very good defensive team you give yourself a chance every night, on the road, at home, it's a big factor and something to build on.”