SALT LAKE CITY — It’s Saturday, March 3.
The Utah Jazz are in Sacramento's Golden 1 Center for a regular season game against the Kings.
Rudy Gobert’s head is on a swivel, per usual, as he’s protecting the paint.
He’s quick on his feet, his timing is there, and he’s altering shots off intimidation alone.
Gobert would end the night with three swats as the Jazz won 98-91.
Fast forward to Tuesday, May 8.
Utah is on the brink of elimination as Gobert is locked in a head-to-head battle with Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets.
Once again, Gobert was effective in the paint, ending with five blocks, but the Jazz would lose Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals series against Houston, 4-1.
Not that Gobert needed any extra motivation to shut down opponents, as the Jazz center is a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award, which will be announced Monday, but he played for a bigger cause in the entire 2017-18 season.
In October, Gobert launched his Rudy’s Kids Foundation. Instead of promoting it with a standard press conference or media-friendly event, he took a unique approach.
For every blocked shot during selected games, the foundation would donate $1,000 to select charities — and not just in Utah. The Sacramento Children’s Home and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston were a couple of the recipients of Gobert’s public non-profit foundation in opposing cites from those March 3 and May 8 performances.
“We were absolutely blown away with not only Rudy’s generosity, but the fact that he really cared about impacting children in the Sacramento community,” said Todd Koolakian, Director of Philanthropy for the Sacramento Children’s Home. “Mr. Gobert is an inspiration and a valued partner.
“We appreciate his generous support of the Sacramento Children’s Home and the children we serve.”
Rudy’s Kids partnered with 11 charities across seven NBA cities and Paris. The foundation is almost entirely funded by Gobert.
The highest donation also happened to be in Houston for $5,000 from the five blocked shots he registered during Utah’s last game of the season.
So, in addition to already wanting to establish himself as the league’s top defender, his secret is now out on why he went even harder.
“There’s some games where I wasn’t thinking about it, but there’s some games where I gained a block and I thought ‘this is great,’” Gobert told the Deseret News. “It’s always great, no matter what. Even if I don’t get any blocks, I’m still able to impact their lives, so the whole point is to make it even more fun and entertaining for them when I’m playing and they’re waiting for me to get a block.”
Gobert will celebrate his 26th birthday on Tuesday. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman recently wrapped up his fifth season with the Jazz and was voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Opponents shot 10.0 percentage points worse than expected on shots fewer than six feet from the basket against Gobert, per NBA Advanced Statistics, as Utah ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating by allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions.
He’s currently training in Los Angeles as the second annual 2018 NBA Awards are set for Monday in Santa Monica, California. Gobert is up against New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid for the Defensive Player of the Year trophy but likes his chances.
“I’m feeling great,” Gobert said. “No matter what, I’m very grateful and very proud to be in this position. Just to be in the conversation for the best defensive player in the world is a great honor, and it would be great to win it.
“I definitely put enough work in, but it’s two other great defenders that are up against me, and we’ll see how it goes.”
No matter what happens in terms of the trophy, Gobert knows he’s affected the lives of many through his charitable efforts.
The Utah Foster Care and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake City are the local charities that have benefitted from the foundation through funding, personal interactions and free Jazz tickets.
“When we got the call that he was interested in doing this, my first thought was that ‘he’s got enough on his mind, he doesn’t need to do something during the year,’” said Deborah Lindner, communications director of the Utah Foster Care. “But that he cares, especially about kids that are in a tough situation, tells me a lot about his character.”
Since the end of the season, Gobert has spent time with the kids in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe who have experienced brain damage or are a part of families with brain damage. Part of the Rudy’s Kids mission statement is to identify, partner with and to support charities that directly impact the lives of kids.3 comments on this story
As he continues to grow in his profession, Gobert hopes to leave an impact that’s bigger than basketball. This year was just a start.
“At the end of my life, I just want to make sure I made a big difference in this world,” Gobert said. “Obviously, the basketball career doesn’t last forever. I’m able to impact people’s lives by the way I play, but there’s so much more things I can do so there is no limit to what I can do.
“As I keep getting older, I’ll probably have more and more ideas, so we’ll see,” he added. “This is a great start and we’ll see where it takes me.”