SALT LAKE CITY — At the height of his comedic career, Eddie Murphy released “Coming to America”on June 29, 1988.
The film would become a cult classic, especially in the African-American community, as Murphy starred as Prince Akeem of Zamunda and numerous other funny roles.
On his 21st birthday, Prince Akeem traveled from Africa to Queens, New York, to find his bride in the romantic comedy.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert wasn’t even alive when the film originally debuted.
The 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner was actually born on June 26, 1992 in Saint-Quentin, France — recently celebrating his 26th birthday on Tuesday — but once he became old enough, he would soon find out he held a special connection to the movie.
Gobert’s father, Rudy Bourgarel, actually made a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the movie. Gobert didn’t even realize that today is in fact the 30-year anniversary of the movie’s release.
“Oh, really,” Gobert told the Deseret News, laughing.
“I watched it a few times,” he added. “I don’t really watch it anymore, but I’ve watched it a few times.”
Gobert’s mother, Corrine, was the first to show him the film as a young boy. His dad was a former international professional basketball player who also played alongside Rik Smits at Marist College. In fact, in "Coming to America," Bourgarel is briefly shown as a player during the scene where Prince Akeem attends the St. John’s-Marist college basketball game at Madison Square Garden.
Murphy also drew headlines on Sunday, April 8, when he attended the Utah Jazz versus Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples Center with his model girlfriend Paige Butcher. He witnessed the Jazz beat the Lakers 112-97 as Utah clinched a playoff berth, but the two weren’t able to connect.
“I know he was there at one of our games,” Gobert said of Murphy. “But no, I didn’t get a chance to (meet him).”Comment on this story
Like Prince Akeem in the fictitious film, Gobert didn't come to America until after he was drafted in 2013 at the age of 21. He launched his Rudy's Kids Foundation in October, where he seeks to identify, partner with and to support charities that directly impact the lives of kids. Corrine doesn't speak English and continues to live in France, but she remains supportive of his off-court endeavors.
Coming to America wasn't a bad thing for Gobert after all.
"Even though I didn't have a lot of material things, I had the love and education and all together a lot of kids don't have the same chances, so the goal is to give some chances to the kids that don't have it," Gobert said of his foundation.
"(My mom) really loves it," he added. "She knows me, so she's not surprised, but my mom, my sister and my brother all think it's great to serve an impact."