Who would have thought that nine years ago, the Jazz would make a draft night trade that would alter the course of the franchise?
And who would have thought that little-known Frenchman Rudy Gobert would develop into not only a Jazz legend but a Hall of Fame-caliber player?
It appears only the Jazz believed in him, with even Denver trading away his draft rights. Gobert chose that No. 27 as a reminder of where he was selected in the draft and how many teams didn’t believe in him.
And then he put his head down and went to work.
He only played in 45 games during his rookie season, averaging under 10 minutes per game for a Jazz team that finished in the cellar of the Western Conference. He was even sent to the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League to further develop his game.
But as the Jazz improved the next season, so did Gobert. His points per game average went from 2.3 to 8.4. His rebounds per game improved from 3.4 to 9.5. He played in all 82 games, starting 37. The Jazz’s win total improved by 13 – from 25 to 38 – under first-year coach Quin Snyder.
By year three, Rudy was a starter, nearly averaging a double-double, while the Jazz missed the playoffs by just a single game.
Then year four came, and Gobert reached new heights. He led the league in blocks per game (2.6) and was named Second Team All-NBA and First Team All-Defense. Thanks in large part to his improvements, the Jazz won the Northwest Division and reached the playoffs for the first time in five years, tallying 51 wins and reaching the second round.
Since that breakout 2016-17 season, Gobert has become not only the league’s premier interior defender, but the Jazz continued to reach the playoffs year after year.
The Jazz reached the playoffs each of the last six years, winning its division three times and finishing with the league’s best record (52-20) during the 2020-21 season, in large part due to Rudy’s rise to stardom.
Gobert has been named to six straight All-Defensive First Teams while garnering four All-NBA nods (three 3rd, one 2nd) and being named an All-Star three times (2020-22).
Add in the blocks title, leading the league in rebounding in 2021-22, and winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards in a four-year span, Gobert cemented himself as a Utah Jazz legend.
He left behind a legacy on the court. But even more important than his basketball accolades and the success he helped lead the Jazz to, Gobert made an impact off the court through his charity work and community outreach programs.
Gobert exemplified the hard work and dedication both on and off the court that all Jazz fans adored. We saw him grow from a skinny kid from France who couldn’t get on the court into an NBA star.
He was grateful for the opportunity the Jazz gave him, and he wanted to retire as a Jazz man. Rudy was loyal to the team and the community, and that’s all Jazz fans could ever ask for.
Rudy is a Jazzman through and through. And while we all wish things had ended differently, we will look back at the many memories through his nine seasons and be grateful for the many highlights on the court, and off it.
And one day, we will all cheer and chant “Ruuuudy!” as his No. 27 jersey is raised to the rafters at Vivint Arena.
Thank you, Rudy.
A lifelong Jazz fan
All stats are accurate as of July 6, 2022, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.