El Nuevo Sol
Ricky Rubio learned how to run a basketball court overseas, having first taken to the hardwood with Spanish pro teams at age 14. Now, after becoming a free agent last offseason, the 29-year-old NBA veteran is running the Phoenix Suns. Last decade, Rubio was a hotshot Euro prospect, a Catalonian point guard drafted in 2009 two spots ahead of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. Soft-spoken with the type of warm, kind eyes perfect for selling fake passes, Rubio is unselfish as both a player and human. At previous NBA stops in Minnesota and Utah, he became known as a pass-first handler with thrilling moves and a high basketball IQ. Not only is Rubio the ego-free veteran the Suns’ young core could use, he wields his platform to benefit cancer causes. He’s happy to be shaking for the next three years (and $51 million) in the Valley of the Sun.
You won MVP of the FIBA tournament in China over the summer. How did you like the country?
It was good. A little different, I would say. China is the country where everything is the most different culture from others that I’ve seen. I’m not saying better or worse, I’m saying different. There’s a lot of things you can learn there.
What are your early impressions of our city?
When we were playing against Phoenix, it was always one of the cities I wanted to go, you know? Coming from Minnesota and Utah, the weather [here] is one of the greatest things. I’m a big outdoors guy, where I like to have coffees and go hiking. Here you can do that, and I can’t wait to do that in the season.
What’s your superpower?
Trying to make everybody better. And at the same time, bringing everybody onto the same page and controlling the team.
You were viewed as a wunderkind. Now, at 29, do you see yourself as a veteran?
Yeah, I feel like I’m more mature. With the experience I have on and off the court, it’s really helped me find what I want and what I want to be… I kind of bring my experience where I’ve been with teams super young, with a lot of talent. But we’re [not] using that card to say it’s going to be next year, or in two or three years. You have to act right now. We have to do it [win] right now.
You’ve tweeted about social and environmental issues. Do you see yourself as more than an athlete?
Absolutely. I think not just because I’m a basketball player, but a human being. You have to. I would say it’s a must to be involved with all these kinds of things, from helping other people when you can to really taking care of the world where we live… We have to open our eyes to big problems.
What does contributing to cancer-related charities mean to you?
My mom had cancer, and she passed away three years ago. It was a really tough experience for me. I want to help other families going through that experience, make things a little easier. If I can help in any way – just bringing a smile, or bringing some money so they can get a better treatment, or whatever it is to help families in tough times – I’m in a spot where I can do it. If I wasn’t in a spot where I could do it, I would try to do it, anyway. Because giving something to somebody who needs it means a lot to them, and it doesn’t take that much from you.