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Brad Rock: Rudy Gobert has it figured out; go tell it to your kid

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) is greeted by fans as he leaves the court after the Jazz beat the Boston Celtics at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) is greeted by fans as he leaves the court after winning over the Boston Celtics at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — I don’t know enough about Rudy Gobert to address his personal life, i.e. what he does away from basketball, his favorite city, who are his life friends. But if I had a 10-year-old kid, I would point to Gobert and say, “Watch him.”

I know this much from middle distance: He works relentlessly, motivates himself, stands up for his beliefs, loves and respects his mother, credits his teammates, treats strangers politely.

And he has just enough humility to be a thriving success.

This is a player who adjusted his defensive game after being named the Defensive Player of the Year, because his coaches suggested it. For good measure he won the DPOY again last Monday.

In between, he considerably improved his offense.

How he dresses reveals at least a little about him. Leopard-pattern shirts. Black polo with mustard pants. Black sport coat with aquamarine jeans. Hot pink, fuchsia, burgundy and silver suits. Monday he wore a sparkling blue ensemble to pick up his bookend defensive award. Shawl collar and black shirt in an ever-so-slim fit.

A lot of attitude in those threads.

He can get serious with his clothing, too, because with his money you can have it all. But his colorful suits say more than bespoke flannel ever will. They speak of his approach to life and basketball.

“I don’t know who started this pink suit thing, but I kinda like it …” he tweeted on Monday, when some TV commentators wore pink.

This year there were several worthy candidates for DPOY, including Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But it’s impossible to bypass Gobert, especially if you’re an opponent. With his reach and anticipation, he can quickly redirect a layup to the curb.

When a Jazz fan tweeted that Toronto’s championship made him long for a trophy in Utah, Gobert chimed in.

“It’s coming …”

He might be quiet, but he’s not shy.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) with three little fans during the national anthem as the Utah Jazz play the Indiana Pacers Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) with three little fans during the national anthem as the Utah Jazz play the Indiana Pacers Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It’s not merely Gobert’s certainty, but the delivery that resonates. He’s an in-your-face defender but a laid-back person. Some NBA players stonewall, sulk, talk down to media or run off at the mouth. Gobert does none of that, yet is unafraid of honesty. He was a finalist this year for the Magic Johnson Award, honoring players who consistently excel at playing the game and cooperating with the media.

Gobert is neither the gabbiest nor most gregarious. Rather, he is pleasant and thoughtful — a combination not found at every locker stall. He is the second Jazz player to win two DPOY awards, along with Mark Eaton, who won in 1985 and 1989. Eaton too was a modest and effective role model. But they are far from twin images. Eaton leans toward classic clothes of natural fabrics and soft tones; Gobert appreciates Day-Glo colors and skinny pants.

Neither is merely a tall guy. Eaton’s strength, leverage and physicality were his calling cards. Gobert is agile and athletic for his size. Both are among 10 players to have won multiple DPOY awards.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) gives knuckles to Utah fan Calvin Edwards after signing a flag for Calvin and his friend Ralph Tallent as the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets play in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs at the Toyota Center in
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) gives knuckles to Utah fan Calvin Edwards after signing a flag for Calvin and his friend Ralph Tallent as the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets play in game 2 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs at the Toyota Center in Houston Texas on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

If Gobert had been bypassed for this year’s award, it would have greatly mattered to him — and it wouldn’t have mattered at all. He is open about his desire to be an All-Star and win other accolades, but there is no self-aggrandizement. When he said, last winter, he belonged on the All-Star team, he wasn’t blustering.

“I thought I had a chance,” he said.

No crime committed.

But failing to win the DPOY this year wouldn’t have altered his approach. He would still be reporting to camp with low single-digit body fat. Off the court, he would continue trying to use his visibility for good.

Gobert posted a picture of himself in the wee hours of Tuesday, holding both DPOY trophies. Beneath it he wrote, “To be continued …” with a praying hands emoji.

His non-basketball side includes delivering opinions on a variety of things, including this quote from Albert Einstein: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

When he was skipped over for the All-Star team this year, he cried about the disappointment it would cause his mother. Not many players dare show that level of vulnerability. He managed to call the snub “disrespectful” without being disrespectful himself.

When you’re out front being Rudy, you’re upfront about practically everything.

There aren’t many better ways to advise a kid.