NBA Player Rudy Gobert Reveals a Dark Family Story

Photo: Chris Coduto (Getty Images)
Photo: Chris Coduto (Getty Images)

When we watch our favorite athletes play, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of competition and forget that these are real people with traumatic life experiences. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert recently reminded his fans of everything he’s had to overcome to make it to the NBA.

In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, he paid tribute to his mother and how she kept him grounded in the midst of an emotional childhood.

The French basketball star described himself as “a private person,” but he wants fans to understand him, which means revealing his history and “everything in my life that’s brought [him] here.”

In a sad yet familiar, story, the 31-year-old center, whose mother is white and father is Black, recalled “a painful memory” from his childhood in which his mother’s family did not welcome him into the fold. In an incident that happened at a Christmas gathering when he was two, his mom was told, “We don’t want that baby in our house.” She was forced to choose between him or her family, and of course she chose her son.

“She was devastated,” Gobert wrote. “And obviously, she spent Christmas with me instead. She told them, ‘If that’s the way you think, then you’re not going to see me anymore. Not at Christmas. Not ever. I don’t want anything to do with you.’”

With Mother’s Day just around the corner on May 12, it’s very fitting that Gobert credited his mother with giving him the space and encouragement to pursue his basketball dreams. His father returned to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean when Gobert was two, leaving his mom to handle everything for him and his siblings.

When he was 12 and had an opportunity to attend basketball camp that would only let him come home on weekends, he explains that his mother didn’t hesitate to tell him, “Go after your dreams. I’ll be fine.”

Gobert explained that it was a visit to a darkness retreat and the controversy surrounding his on-court run-in with the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green that prompted him to share more about himself. He felt like too many people were discussing his personality and life without knowing the real him.

Honestly, we need more high-profile athletes like Gobert to be comfortable with being vulnerable. The more we normalize opening up about pain and trauma, the better chance we have at really tackling issues like mental health and toxic masculinity.

Nowadays, celebrities and athletes are who young people actually listen to, so they’re going to be the ones who move the needle.

Up next, Gobert and his Timberwolves teammates will take on the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

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