Rudy Gobert will have gone through all the emotions in a year: anguish and embarrassment caused by the Covid-19, pride of a miraculous contract, euphoria of a leadership position in the NBA with Utah. And for the second year in a row, the French pivot of Utah Jazz has been selected to play the All-Star Game, which will take place on March 7 in Atlanta, the NBA announced on Tuesday February 23.

Congratulated by his teammates Georges Niang and Mike Conley, who wishes him ” still many “ of selections, Rudy Gobert also reacted by simply tweeting “#JustakidfromSaintQuentin” (“Just a kid from Saint-Quentin”), in reference to star LeBron James, who often poses as the “Akron kid”, Ohio city where he is from.

Aged 28, Rudy Gobert is one of the fourteen substitutes chosen by the coaches of the thirty franchises. The other players playing in the Western Conference are: Paul George (Clippers), Damian Lillard (Portland), Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Chris Paul (Phoenix), Zion Williamson (New Orleans), but also Anthony Davis (Lakers) , yet injured his right Achilles tendon, which will be replaced if he is not ready in time for the meeting.

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In the East, were summoned Jaylen Brown (Boston), James Harden (Brooklyn), Zach LaVine (Chicago), Julius Randle (New York), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), Jayson Tatum (Boston) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando) .

Consideration from coaches

Gobert, who became the third Frenchman last year to taste the pleasure of an All-Star Game, is still far from Tony Parker and his six caps, but he joins Joakim Noah who has had this honor twice.

He was rewarded for his good performance with his team, the best ranked at the end of the first part of the season. His 13.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks on average have helped make the Jazz one of the best defenses in the league.

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For “Gobzilla”, designated best defender in the NBA in 2018 and 2019, this new selection testifies to the consideration he is now the subject of coaches. The tears that had flowed after learning that he had not been called for the 2019 edition seem far away and more than a bad memory.

The highest paid French sportsman

The year which has just passed will not have been a long quiet river, however. No sooner had he been recognized for his true worth – that against the grain of a player, rarely flamboyant, who is doing well in defense more than in attack – than three weeks later, his dream American suddenly darkened when he became the first player to test positive for Covid-19. Upon hearing this news, NBA boss Adam Silver immediately decided to suspend the season on the evening of March 11.

In addition to the fear felt for his physical health, Gobert was in turmoil when a video shot two days earlier showed him touching, bad joke, microphones and phones after a press conference. Demonstration of his recklessness and lightness in the face of the dangers of the nascent pandemic.

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He had to take care of his image, between mea culpa, financial donations and awareness messages. Reconcile also with his teammate Donovan Mitchell, who contracted Covid-19 in his wake and blamed him for his negligence.

As a symbol, it was Rudy who won the ball at the kickoff of the first resumption game of the season, four and a half months later in the Orlando (Florida) bubble. A return to the game that stopped in the first round of play-offs for Jazz, nevertheless showing great promises.

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Certain that the future is theirs, with Mitchell and his teammates, Gobert extended his contract with Utah this winter for $ 205 million over five years, becoming the highest paid French sportsman.

A 70th All-Star Game behind closed doors

It remains to be seen which captain will select him to play in his team, between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the most popular stars by the vote of fans, players and journalists. Last year, he played in “Team Giannis” Antetokounmpo, narrowly defeated (157-155), and justified his presence with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

It is on March 3 that James (Lakers) and Durant (Brooklyn) will choose in turn, without taking into account the conference from which the players come, the four holders who will make up the five major of their team, then the substitutes. West: Stephen Curry (Golden State), Nikola Jokic (Denver), Luka Doncic (Dallas) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers). East: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn).

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From “Unhappy” unselected include Trae Young (Atlanta), Bam Adebayo (Miami), Fred VanVleet (Toronto), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee) or Devin Booker (Phoenix), whom LeBron James described on Twitter as nothing less than the “Least respected player in our league”.

This All-Star Game, 70e of the name, will be the first to take place behind closed doors, the Covid-19 pandemic requires. The match will be preceded by a three-point shooting competition and the “Skill challenge” (dexterity exercise). A dunk contest will take place at half time.

The World with AFP

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