Should Ricky Rubio join the Hall of Fame after retirement from Cavaliers?

The Spaniard has had a great Basketball Life
Argentina v Spain: Final - FIBA World Cup 2019
Argentina v Spain: Final - FIBA World Cup 2019 / Fred Lee/GettyImages

Ricky Rubio made news this week by announcing his retirement from NBA basketball and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 33-year-old point guard from Catalonia, Spain had been away from the team since this past summer due to recent mental health issues. The prevailing thought for Cavaliers fans has been whether or not Rubio would ever play for the Wine & Gold again. Now, we know the answer. 

Rubio and the Cavaliers organization reached a contract buyout agreement, which would free Rubio from his contract and free up some cap space for the Cavs. There had been trade rumors as recently as December to move Rubio on to another destination. Alas, this is not what Ricky was wanting. As he said in his tweet, the ending of his time in Cleveland was not ideal; yet, the Spanish guard showed some love for the organization and noted the Cavs understood and respected his decision. We all hope that Ricky can get what he needs going forward, and we all hope for the best for Ricky and family.

Ricky Rubio: A Basketball Life

Richard Rubio Vives, better known as Ricky Rubio, was born on October 21, 1990, in El Masnou, Catalonia, Spain. Now, you are probably saying, 33 years old? That is still relatively young for an NBA player, especially considering what LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant are doing in their later years.

Rubio has lived a long professional basketball life himself. Rubio began playing professional basketball in the Spanish ACB League in 2005 for Juventud Badalona at 14 years old. Age 14! Ricky Rubio was Luka Doncic before Luka Doncic. 

Rubio would play four seasons at Badalona before moving to European basketball giant FC Barcelona in 2009. Before his move to Barcelona, NBA scouts took notice of Rubio, and he would be drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in that year's NBA Draft. Rubio and the Timberwolves made a deal where he would play for FC Barcelona for two seasons before returning to Minnesota. And what a 2-year stretch it was for Rubio and FCB. In those two seasons, Rubio would be crowned Copa Del Rey Champion twice, League ACB Champion, and EuroLeague Champion.

After FC Barcelona, Rubio would play 12 NBA seasons for the Timberwolves, Jazz, Suns and the Cavaliers. Ricky made the 2011-12 All-Rookie Team, which in retrospect, is a bit silly since he had already played professionally for six seasons. Rubio was an old-fashioned point guard, playing the role of facilitator first and scorer second. Also, Rubio had quick hands, averaging over two steals per game in four separate seasons. For his NBA career, he averaged 10.8 points per game, 7.4 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game. 

As a part of Spain’s "Golden Generation", Rubio won a Silver Medal at the 2008 Olympics and a Bronze in the 2016 Olympics. To cap off his international awards, Rubio and Spain won the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Ricky also won the MVP of the tournament, rounding off an illustrious international career.  

Is that enough for Rubio to make it into the Hall of Fame?

The case for Rubio’s enshrinement 

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame embraces the whole game of basketball, a shrine to the NBA, WNBA, college basketball, and international contributors to the game.

One international contributor enshrined is Lithuanian legend Aryvdas Sabonis. Before playing in Portland, Sabonis was a terrific European player. His accomplishments included: a 3x USSR League Champion, a 2x Spanish ACB League Champion, a Lithuanian League Champion,  a 2x Spanish ACB League MVP and a Gold Medalist in the 1982 FIBA World Cup and 1988 Olympics Gold Medalist for the Soviet Union.

Sabonis would also play seven seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1995-2003. His style of play at 7-foot 3-inches would be the precursor to how many big men play the game now. A big man with the ability to shoot and be the facilitator of the offense with his passing and decision-making, he was Jokic before Jokic. Sabonis’ modest NBA stats of 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game show everyone that it is not completely necessary to dominate the NBA to be inducted.

Playing in the NBA is not a requirement to enter the Hall of Fame, either. Brazilian basketball legend Oscar Schmidt was drafted into the NBA in 1984 by the New Jersey Nets but never played for them. Schmidt spent his career playing in Brazil, Italy and Spain over for an amazing 29 seasons. Schmidt is known for being the all-time leading scorer in the history of basketball, totaling 49,737 points (good luck with that record, LeBron).

Internationally, Schmidt was a five-time Olympian and won the Bronze in the 1978 FIBA World Cup, Gold in the 1987 Pan-American Games, and Gold in the FIBA South American Championship thrice. The "Brazilian Larry Bird" was a tremendous player, even if NBA fans never got to see him.

Despite Rubio not having the most illustrious NBA career, it should not dampen his chances of getting to Springfield. Ricky Rubio is not Sabonis nor Schmidt, but he has the resume of a Basketball Hall of Famer with his international achievements.

From becoming a teenage phenom in Europe, to a dozen exciting and productive seasons in the NBA, to a dominant national career with the Spanish National Team, Ricky Rubio deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

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