The Ricky Rubio Experience

Playing against Ricky Rubio is harrowing, but the point guard prodigy is playing against more than just his match-ups.
Share |

The 2008 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game, the one that Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski called ‘one of the great games in international basketball history,’ aired late at night in the Western world. And there was, appropriately, something dreamlike about it. But the images of Ricky Rubio, who was then just 17 years old, were real. He really did slice through the lane, reveal open shooters and exhibit spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Rubio’s unflappable demeanor, uncanny handle and full-spectrum mastery of the sport belied his youth and set the basketball world alight in the process. Rubio already had a nimbus of scout-buzz around him before that game, but his performance made the scrawny, shy-seeming playmaker into every basketball fan’s long-distance man-crush.

We kept in touch through endless, grainy YouTube clips of Rubio’s impossible passes and disappearing-act dribbling through double-teams. We watched him do things with a basketball that shouldn’t be possible for a 17-year-old, and hadn’t previously seemed possible for anyone, at any age. Four years, however, is a long time in the life of an athlete.


Two years before that, Ricky Rubio was already becoming a legend in his native Spain. There were tales of the shaggy-haired kid, with the grasshopper thin frame who lit up the Under-16 FIBA Championships with epic box scores and wild buzzer-beaters. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of him.

I was playing in Spain at the time, and was there as the nation slipped into inescapable Rubio-mania. In the grocery store people wanted to talk about him; in our locker room we laughed about the boy who turned the ACB, the second best league in the world, into his personal And1 mixtape. He was the next Pistol Pete, the next Magic. There wasn’t a comparison too far-fetched.

I remember watching his team, DKV Joventut, on TV and mentioning to a friend that he played so calm and free, so relaxed under immense pressure. And it was striking, the way he played each game as if it was happening in the park before he had to race home to set the table for the family dinner. But it wasn’t just his highlights that fascinated me. He reminded me of the basketball I grew up watching. This was before APBRmetrics and Hollinger’s stats parsed every minutia of detail into digestible numbers, quantifying a lot but inevitably missing the raw, visceral effect of watching a player play. It was a time, in short, when it was easier to see the game purely subjectively, and as art. And it was impossible to see Rubio as anything but an artist.

As a peer, I found it impossible to watch Rubio without envy. He casually threaded behind-the-back passes through the defense, created steals at half-court, then just smiled, brushed his hair to the side and shrugged his shoulders. He made it look easy, because it was in fact easy for him. He was born with an intuition others could never attain in a lifetime.

In Beijing, in ‘08, the world took notice. This wasn’t just a boy with an otherworldly, God-given gift. He was that, but he was also the future. Expectations were adjusted accordingly upwards .

I finally played against Rubio, twice, in the summer of ’09, when I was with the British National team. By then, Rubio’s boyish enthusiasm seemed slowly to be evaporating. Sergio Scariolo, the Spanish team’s new coach, didn’t seem to understand the young point guard. A coach as calculated as a hit man, Scariolo’s basketball worldview was entirely contradictory to the artistry of Rubio.


The first time we played Spain was an exhibition in Seville. A couple minutes into the game, I stood next to him at half court during a free throw and wondered what all the fuss was about. Despite the presence of All-Stars Pau and Marc Gasol and local legend Juan Carlos Navarro, the sold-out crowd couldn’t get enough of Ricky. From middle-aged men to teenage girls, everyone screamed his name; there was literal ooh-ing and aah-ing each time he touched the ball.

And yet he seemed to me to have no discernible physical gifts. He weighed 170 pounds dripping wet, wasn’t nearly as Iverson-quick as I expected him to be and it took him a Mesolithic era to get his shot off. Of course, it was in my interest to believe all this. I’d been given the task of trying to shut Rubio down.

At only 5-11, I made a career out of being the smartest player on the court, understanding the nuances it takes to play the most difficult position on the floor. I’d spent the better part of the day studying tape, checking Rubio’s tendencies and searching for weaknesses in his game, especially in the pick and roll, his bread and butter.

The pick-and-roll, elementary though it seems, is the single hardest play to perfect in all of sports and the basis of any good basketball team. Once a screen is set, a good point guard will go through his reads like a quarterback. Navigating through the matrix of defensive possibilities, he reacts to the other nine guys on the floor, then counter-reacts and possibly further counter-counter-reacts as the court shifts into a geometric puzzle, all in the blink of an eye. That super-fast dynamism is one of the fundamental challenges of basketball: hold the ball a split second too long, what was open has surely been gobbled up by time and space, and you’re left at the defense’s mercy. Years of practice and hundreds of games on, you begin to see the same patterns develop. Then, finally, a complex problem opens enough to reveal a straightforward solution.

Halfway through the first quarter, Rubio called for a screen on the right wing. I bodied him up, forcing him out of his operating zone, then quickly dove under the pick. We had planned to change up our defensive tactics often against the kid, to confuse him and get the ball out of his hands sooner than he wanted. He shifted to his left hand, then paused, just for a moment, switched hands again and used the screen again. I jumped over the pick, and my big man, the long, athletic Joel Freeland, held firm. Suddenly, like a racecar driver, Rubio changed gears from third to fourth and then fifth in the space of about three feet. I fought through the screen, and just when I thought we had him bottled up he froze for a millisecond, waiting for the defense to collapse. Then, at that exact right moment, Rubio flipped it right handed over to an open Navarro on the money. Navarro drove to the hoop and our collapsing defense fouled him before he could get a shot off. Ball out of bounds. A completely meaningless play in the scheme of the game. Also, though, a perfect play.

A few plays later, on a fast break, an open Navarro was in the corner, and Sergio Llull, another great shooter, was on the same wing guarded. There are several things that could have, and ordinarily would have, happened in this situation. Rubio might have lobbed it over to Navarro, allowing the defense to react and forcing Navarro to penetrate and make a play himself; that would ultimately ruin the fast-break. Rubio could have waited for the trailer, or simply dribbled to the opposite side of the floor where there was limited resistance. Rubio did none of these, instead making a beeline straight toward the defender. In essence Rubio, his defender, Llull and Llull’s defender all converged at the intersection on the wing. It was a kamikaze play that no coach would ever teach, yet Rubio’s choice ensured that the defense couldn’t recover when he fired a bounce pass through a keyhole size opening to Navarro. Three points.

It was personally demoralizing, in a way that perhaps only people who have played the position would fully understand. What took me decades to decode seemed to be hardwired into his brain; he was playing with information I didn’t quite have, while running an operating system different than my own. I felt like I was trying to catch an antelope with a butterfly net. No matter what I did or how quickly I beat him to the spot he’d make the right play at just the right moment.

And yet, curiously, Scariolo rarely took the reins off and let Ricky be himself. For much of the game Rubio would just slouch in the corner as a decoy, sucking his teeth and rolling his eyes like a petulant teenager.

A month later we met again in the European Championships in Warsaw. This was a game in which we nearly beat the mighty Spaniards, and from the opening tip it was clear the walls were closing in on Ricky. He was overthinking. When he had the ball, I almost stopped guarding him, playing, five and even ten feet away, daring him to shoot. At other times I almost completely forgot he was on the floor.

He’d given up probing the defense and attacking the paint, in favor of pointless swing passes around the perimeter. Strangest of all, he had stopped running the break, instead walking it up and surrendering to Scariolo’s deliberate play calling. It made my job easier, but it was almost tragic watching the future of basketball banished to the bench every time he made a turnover, his head wrapped in a towel while politely cheering on his teammates. The kid with the permanent grin and unshakable confidence had stopped smiling.


His new club team that year, Barcelona, demanded even more structure, wanted Ricky to conform to their static half-court game.

Prodigies, however, don’t conform; they’re not built for it, atypical by definition. Soon everyone in Spain, and I mean EVERYONE had an opinion on Rubio’s struggles, on who he should be and the player he could be. Ricky, the child-star, was being micro-parented by a country full of obsessive stage-mothers; it was stifling the intuitive, free-spirited play that had seemed so innate in the past.

There was, then, some new noise surrounding him, and it began to get louder: “He can’t shoot”, “can’t finish”, “he’s one-dimensional”, “can’t play in the league.”

After slogging through a miserable final season with Barcelona and shooting a pathetic 33%, the critics were merciless. He was quickly becoming a tale of what could have been, the gifted boy besieged by a practical world, torn down by those seeking a rational explanation to what had been an irrational phenomenon.

Rubio, who’d been tabbed at such a young age as the golden child, suddenly found himself facing the very real and very adult prospect of levelling-off and converging on the ordinary. As Spain’s favorite son prepared to make his NBA debut, Rubio seemed not just to be regressing but shrinking, eroding back towards reality. The adversity to come would define him, one way or another. The question was not merely whether he’d be Schea Cotton or LeBron James, though; it was whether he’d ever even get to be Ricky Rubio.


Rubio, to his great good fortune, ended up with one of the very few coaches on the planet who shares his understanding of basketball as art. Rick Adelman opened up Rubio’s game again, exorcised it, and seemed to have removed the Scariolo-scars on his psyche. The resulting Minnesota two-man game, giving Kevin Love and Rubio free rein, is less a pure Stockton-esque pick-and-roll than a pick-and-flow, a Rubio-centric offense where anything is possible.

Two, three, maybe four picks are set for the ball handler on any given possession to negate teams going under the screen then freeing Rubio up to run at his defender, eliminate static energy and create the slight mismatches he needs to exploit the defense. It’s simple, yet it’s not. It’s a unique style that Rubio possesses, and one that defies his meager stats. As easy as it is to see and sense, it’s tough to measure the passion and excitement Rubio instills in his teammates and fans, even those of us following on TV.  

To watch Rubio play is to understand he doesn’t see things the way you and I do. When he’s at his best, when we can’t take our eyes off of him, he’s lost in a universe of his own making, a world ‘where you forget everything,’ as he told ESPN.

Perhaps it’s built into his genius DNA, or perhaps he’s a true synesthete, a man who sees distinct patterns and colors built into a spatial landscape on the back of his intuition, where others merely see X’s and O’s. It’s not that Rubio shuns rationality or calculated basketball; he tried hard to fit into Scariolo’s system and Barcelona’s technical mind-fuck, after all. It’s just that he wasn’t designed like that. He can’t play any other way, at least not yet.

And so as he returns from injury, Rubio will be at the crossroads again, and facing another moment of choosing which and what Ricky Rubio he will be. We may get a prodigy transforming before our eyes into the brilliant master we hope for, one who can mesh his instinct and reach further along the spectrum of structure and all-around basketball ability; he could become one of the greats. Or we’ll get a good show while it lasts, one that will fizzle and plateau and then fade in the rising noise about the next big thing. Knowing Rubio, though, there is almost certainly some other path or passage that only he sees.

Illustration by Patrick Puckett.

Share |


I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you , website traffic

sex movies High quality free porn videos in hard sex tube gallery are ready to make you melt down from streaming hot sex movies! And other info, visit my site :)

The press will certainly seek out opponents at an open house, so by having supporters there, it will create balance. By making sure to max out the number of supporters, you can create a favorable voice at the open house. spartagen xt where to buy

i see you got really very useful topics..Thanks for all your information, Website is very nice and informative content.
sabo terlik bayan

Writing with style and getting good compliments on the article is quite hard, to be honest.But you've done it so calmly and with so cool feeling and you've nailed the job. This article is possessed with style and I am giving good compliment. Best!what men secretly want pdf

It is very nice to listen to your discussion on specific topic here. I too believe your points here. keep posting sensible blogs. however i need to grasp additional news concerning Hollywood and for that asking your facilitate.Kelowna Luxury Real Estate

It's been such a long time since I last submitted a personal art piece. So I tried something a little different.

The Louis and Leah Posluns Centre for Stroke and Cognition, is a 472-bed, long-term care facility which provides a range of residential and specialized programshambaarst

The key to losing weight lies in the diet routine itself and that's what the program is all about. Various famous celebrities and athletes use the same method to get rid of the excessive weights without doing heavy diet plan to lose weight in a month

Oz emphasizes the value of taking recognize that clean supplement to learn from this belly-blasting device. Percentages are where taking into consideration the actual caffeine content of types of espresso beans, roasts and teas could be useful. As additives is employed caramel or infusions on different grasses. touch screen snowboard gloves

the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us. furniture stores Chicago

It assists you with accomplishing perceivability and fame, and it additionally assists you with building a devoted gathering of people and proselyte your guests into customers...

Today's customer has a lower level of resistance towards publicizing. They change the channel when TV advertisements begin, they just disregard flyers, bulletins and different strategies of outside promoting, and they utilize commercial blockers when scanning the web.

This would be a interesting process for you would become very familiar with Flickr, Wikipedia, Creative Commons, as well as Kris' photography catalog, which covers 6+ years of shooting pictures around the world...

A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts.seo companies in atlanta

Good to become visiting your weblog again, it has been months for me. Nicely this article that i've been waited for so long. I will need this post to total my assignment in the college, and it has exact same topic together with your write-up. Thanks, good share.SEO Agency

acompanhantes df Escorts Club o seu site de Acompanhantes e garotas de programa de Brasilia As mais belas Acompanhantes de Luxo do DF. Sinta-se à vontade! Por favor, visite o site ...

free porn PornGeek is the best websites for FREE HD porn videos. Watch and download movies without signing in. FREE HD Porn from Geeks for Geeks. visit ...

Your article has piqued a lot of positive interest. I can see why since you have done such a good job of making it interesting. why are my ears ringing

This is sure going to help out the kids who find it difficult to deal with the subject. It is a very good way to make the task of kids easy and they can get career oriented studies along with this. most powerful nootropics

ogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantast
ic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me...
ofertas riviera maya

WOW!Very nice and useful information. Why not write a book about this particular subject. For today’s economic variation and be short of of opportunities, it actually will be a very hot topic.the 3 week diet system - how to lose weight fast

I enjoyed reading your post and found it to be informative and to the topic. Thank you for not rambling on and on just to fill the page. Thanks.john rowley e factor diet reviews

I created this website to put my review about Pregnancy Miracle System. I was also the one among other women who successfully used the methods and techniques in the book to deal with my infertility more

Hello' This is a great article.I am pretty much pleased with your creative and informative work.You put really very helpful information and ideas. you did a good job! keep it up.Rebel mouse com

A with low charges and low normal of schooling and B with excessive standard and high charges buy website traffic

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information Denver SEO firm

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! spartagen testosterone booster

Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.

Institutes in Pakistan could be categorized in to two classed: A with low charges and low normal of schooling and B with excessive standard and high charges. double glazed unit prices

Great Post, But If possible would you not mind updating your blog with some more additional Useful information.bigg boss 9 winner

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one volunteer-Ecuador

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!mark hurd

Going to graduate school was a positive decision for me. I enjoyed the coursework, the presentations, the fellow students, and the professors. And since my company reimbursed 100% of the tuition, the only cost that I had to pay on my own was for books and supplies. Otherwise, I received a free master’s degree. All that I had to invest was my time. The guy magnet system review

It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.

Ricky, the child-star, was being micro-parented by a country full of obsessive stage-mothers; it was stifling the intuitive, free-spirited play that had seemed so innate in the past.increase their memory recall ability

We watched him do things with a basketball that shouldn’t be possible for a 17-year-old, and hadn’t previously seemed possible for anyone, at any ageодежда с символикой бокса

Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work! miracle shake treats erectile dysfunction

in the world we live in, and to have fun doing it. It is my honor to introduce the real Wavy Gravy to the world. cccam server

A coach as calculated as a hit man, Scariolo’s basketball worldview was entirely contradictory to the artistry of Rubio soundcloud promotion ! how to get followers

it was easier to see the game purely subjectively, and as art. And it was impossible to see Rubio as anything but an artist. How To Make A Girl Want You More Than Her Other Suitors. Making a girl want you can be a difficult thing. In fact, just getting her to look your way can seem downright impossible sometimes. But you’re not one to give up, right? However challenging it is to get a woman to fall for you, it CAN be done, and it can actually be a lot of fun if you’re the type who enjoys a challenge. If you’re ready to make a girl want you, keep reading and find out how the following tips can help you get her emotionally and sexually obsessed with you. Please visit ...

We watched him do things with a basketball that shouldn’t be possible for a 17-year-old, and hadn’t previously seemed possible for anyone, at any age. Four years, however, is a long time in the life of an athlete.SEO optimization Marketing1on1

A coach as calculated as a hit man, Scariolo’s basketball worldview was entirely contradictory to the artistry of to gain more followers on instagram | how do you get alot of likes on instagram

Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us. I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more.

Rubio already had a nimbus of scout-buzz around him before that game, but his performance made the scrawny, shy-seeming playmaker into every basketball fan’s long-distance man-crush.

Getting good animation will definitely be one matter very enjoyable. Good animation will provide a lot of convenience and certainly inspiration. Obsession Phrases Kelsey Diamond

It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content.

I would certainly commit 10 on 10 for such incredible cognition.probiotics supplements

At least, it's a thing to be familiar with that there are such events exist. I agree with your Blog and I will be back to inspect it more in the future so please keep up your actclash of clans cheats android . pou infinito