Rudy Gobert, more than anything else, wants to be a champion. He has envisioned it. Confetti falling. Champagne popping. Holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in his hands.
When it happens, he says, he wants to be wearing a Utah Jazz uniform.
Gobert and the franchise that drafted him seven years ago proved their loyalty to one another this weekend, coming to terms on a new contract extension that will keep the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Utah long-term.
“I believe in this group. I believe in this organization,” Gobert said Sunday. “That’s why my decision was easy. That’s where my heart is. Since I got here, I always thought that having a chance to bring a championship to the state of Utah, to the city, and to this organization would be something pretty powerful.”
The kid from Saint-Quentin is staying in SLC pic.twitter.com/z6gtZrb5yv
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 20, 2020
The extension comes just before the deadline to get a deal done and on the heels of the Jazz giving guard Donovan Mitchell a long-term extension of his own. The Jazz have now secured their two All-Star pillars for the foreseeable future.
“Rudy is such a special player. He makes everyone on the court better. We couldn’t be more excited about his commitment to this team, to Utah, and most importantly, to keeping this unique culture together,” said Jazz Owner Ryan Smith.
Mitchell was among the first to congratulate Gobert on his new deal and said he was ready to continue building something special with the star center on the court.
“As a kid growing up you put so much time and effort into a craft to support your family. For this to be the result, it’s a big accomplishment for him. I’m happy for him and his family,” Mitchell said. “… Now we have unfinished business on the court and I’m excited to take care of it.”
Gobert is a three-time All-NBA selection and is coming off his first All-Star season — in which he averaged 15.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. But Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder believes the best is yet to come.
“It’s a big day for all of us,” Snyder said. “I know this is an opportunity he is unbelievably appreciative of and I have no doubt that he’ll continue to improve.”
Snyder praised Gobert’s work ethic, competitiveness and perseverance.
“The thing that’s unique about Rudy’s growth is that it’s intentional,” Snyder said. “He’s very aware of the things he can do both personally and professionally to continue to improve. That’s at the core of it. When you approach your craft and your life that way, you’re going to have those moments.”
Gobert broke the good news to his family on Saturday and spent the evening dining with his mother, reflecting on their journey to this point.
“All the things we went through, the ups and downs, the struggles—it was just a great moment to share with my family,” Gobert said.
Gobert’s NBA journey has been filled with those ups and downs, too, since being drafted 27th overall in 2013. On Sunday, Gobert recalled the challenges of his rookie season, trips to the G League, his All-Star snubs.
“It means a lot but not just for me,” he said of his extension. “For all the kids out there that feel like they’re being overlooked or they’re not where they should be, it’s motivating. That’s the story I want to tell. I want to make sure people understand it’s all about work, it’s all about believing in yourself, in your team, believing in the people around you. That’s what it is.”
Those challenges and that hard work are part of the reason why Gobert said he could not picture himself playing for another franchise.
“It would not have fit my story,” he said. “I always felt like it would mean a lot more to bring a championship here. For all the struggles we’ve been through, for all the blood and sweat, the losses in the first round … I don’t think it would mean the same to win it somewhere else.”
Gobert and his teammates did not discuss the ongoing negotiations between the front office and the All-Star center, and Mitchell credited Gobert for his approach in training camp.
“You wouldn’t be able to tell if the negotiations were going great or bad,” Mitchell said. “Whatever they were, none of us really knew until it happened. He came ready to work. That’s the ultimate pro.”
But Gobert, who said he felt embraced by the community as soon as he arrived in Salt Lake City in 2013, said his heart was always in Utah.
“I believe we have a culture,” Gobert said. “I really believe we are going to be in a position where we can make history. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifices. At the same time, it’s something we will remember the rest of our lives.”