Did Stardom Come too Early for Rubio?
Through the good times and bad, (Ricky) Rubio’s remained remarkably grounded and self aware. For most of his teen years, he’s had to operate in a grown-up world, with a man’s responsibilities and expectations. He sits in a restaurant booth with that floppy hair, those big eyes and a smile that goes baseline to baseline. He wears a Nike T-shirt and lifts his hands when he talks, waving them in the air to punctuate a point.
“Maybe I did lose some of [my childhood], but I don’t wish to take any of it back,” he says. “This is the dream that I had, the life that I wanted.”
Yes, he’s so glad to be here. This autumn has been spectacular for him. He leaves the gymnasium on a weekday morning, and those long, spidery arms and legs gladly fold into his agent Jarinn Akana’s Prius for the ride to lunch. For a kid out of the beautiful mountains and beaches and cities of Spain, this has been an unsullied stretch of his basketball life. The lockout has afforded him something that’s been missing for years, a chance to leave the endless cycle of professional seasons and national team training camps and tournaments for the solitude of the gymnasium. He’s worked relentlessly on his shooting, his strength. He’s been able to experiment, try and fail away from the bright lights, the hard criticisms, to prepare to return to all of it once again.
“I’m a star at 15, and every single mistake was huge,” he says. “And now, since I’m 17, I’ve never stopped playing for very long at all. I could never practice with just myself for more than a couple weeks. And now, here, nobody judges me for making mistakes. When you’re practicing away from the team, you can take your time. You can work on your own stuff.
“Here, nobody has an opinion about what I’m doing every day. If I miss a shot, I don’t have to worry about what someone’s going to say. … You can breathe better, you know?”