Rudy Gobert And Ping Pong: An Obsession
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Over the last decade, Rudy Gobert has undergone as significant of a change as any player in the NBA. The Utah Jazz center has grown from a long-shot draft prospect to a bonafide All-NBA center while converting his body from a mass of gangly length to a sculpted defensive machine. But while Gobert’s skills and physique have transformed, there seems to be one constant in the All-Star’s life — ping pong.
From predraft interviews to passing time in the NBA bubble, ping pong continues to work its way into the conversation Gobert, usually unprovoked.
The earliest mention of his infatuation with the game came in 2013 during one of his first American interviews. Jonathan Givony now of ESPN and formerly from Draft Express captured Gobert at the NBA Draft Combine where the future star discussed his interests growing up.
“I don’t like soccer,” Gobert said when asked which sports he liked growing up, “I did boxing, athletics, karate, ping pong, too. ”
Ping pong next appeared in Gobert’s life during the Jazz annual Leapin’ Leaners and Low Tops gala in 2014 which raised money for Larry H. Miller Charities.
The Jazz center was recorded playing ping pong with former Jazzman Alec Burks according to this article from Salt City Hoops.
After a brief hiatus, ping pong made a major comeback in Gobert’s life beginning in 2018. In one of his own Instagram posts, Gobert is seen talking to Donovan Mitchell as he plays ping pong against former teammate Raul Neto.
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In a tour of his mountain home in Utah, Gobert showed off his own personal table tennis setup. The center toured his massive house for Deux Nuits Avec, a French YouTube Channel that follows famous French Athletes throughout their daily life.
The chateau Gobert features a billiards table, a game room, an enormous kitchen for him, and his personal chef. Of course, the home features a ping pong table.
In the video, Gobert has a spot for his fanmail which sits between his ping pong table and fireplace.
Since 2018, ping pong appears to play a major role in the Jazzman’s life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After being the first NBA player to publically test positive for the virus, Gobert discussed the difficulty of playing table tennis as his lungs recovered from the respiratory effects.
“I feel better and better,” Gobert told France24. “A few days ago, I was running out of steam faster than before. At ping-pong for example, or with things I usually do very easily.”
After a tumultuous summer in 2020, the Jazz traveled to Disney World to complete the NBA season inside in Orlando. Once again, ping pong played a starring role for Gobert and his Jazz teammates.
“We got a ping pong table and that may have been the best team-building exercise,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told the Jamaica Basketball Project.
However, the center was unimpressed with the league-provided setup.
“Rudy Gobert didn’t like the initial table and went out of his way to find a table and had a table brought in,” Snyder said. “Something about the surface — he’s more of a touch spin player.”
Even against his teammates, Gobert couldn’t hide his competitiveness.
“I haven’t been around a player that wants to win as bad Rudy does, even in ping pong,” Snyder told NBAextra, “So that carries over on the court.”
Gobert even took to Twitter to talk trash to teammates Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson before the team left for Orlando. The NBA didn’t allow NBA players to play doubles ping pong in the bubble, but Gobert had a solution.
“You’ll lose one after the other,” Gobert tweeted. “It’s cool.”
Recently, two additional ping pong mentions have popped up for Gobert. First, after a brief debate over the All-Star’s dominant hand, Gobert revealed he uses his left and right hands for different purposes.
“Everything like ping pong or boxing, everything that’s strength I usually do right-handed,” Gobert said earlier this month. “And everything that’s a little more finesse, like writing, eating, I do with my left.”
Then, Snyder continued to spill the beans on Gobert’s obsession. When discussing how the team gathers and finds common ground, the Jazz coach revealed the extent to which Gobert will go to find an edge of his teammates in ping pong.
“Rudy’s importing new paddles because they fit his game,” Snyder said. “Kind of like clay-court tennis.”
So while Gobert’s basketball skills and physique continue to evolve, his love for table tennis seems to stay the same. As the Jazz make a push towards a deep playoff run, don’t be surprised to see the ping pong continue to make appearances in his life.