Rudy Gobert was named a finalist for the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year award on Sunday.
Five years ago, this fact alone would have given Gobert considerable pride. Now, after winning the award three times in the last four years, it’s not as important anymore.
“I try not to really think about it,” Gobert said. “I’ve seen some of the things people were saying on Twitter and stuff like that; I can’t control people’s opinions. For me, I’m trying to be the best Rudy I can be and I’m going to keep doing that. . “
Don’t get me wrong, Gobert still wants to win – Marcus Smart and Mikal Bridges are the other finalists – and he still thinks it’s a significant achievement; he’s just had a mindset shift when it comes to the pursuit of individual glory.
When he was a young player, he put a lot of thought into earning it, and he even traded a few beards with other favorites. After winning a few, he said he realized he didn’t want an award to define him.
“When you’re younger, you think a lot about these things, these little recognitions,” Gobert said. “You think that’s how you get validation – it’s kind of, Defensive Player of the Year is a huge award. It’s way more in your mind than when you get older, and you see the whole situation.
“It would be amazing; it’s always great to win,” he continued. “But I see the bigger picture and I understand that for me my legacy will be much more than any that I receive. My legacy will not be defined by that. It will be who I am off the pitch. and what I win for my team on the pitch. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.”
That said, his legacy as one of the leading defenders of his generation would be all the more cemented if he were to win a fourth DPOY award, equaling the all-time record held by Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo.
And that’s something his teammates want him to achieve.
“Are you surprised? I’m not,” Donovan Mitchell said when asked if Gobert was named a finalist. “It’s something he’s been doing since I came here. He’s a rim-protecting guy, great defensively. I believe he’s going to win. I think we all believe that, I think he believes it, and I think the most important thing is that he shows it.
“Like the last game, I think that was the epitome of who he is. What did he have, one shot, two shots last game? And he was one of the most impactful players in the game.”
When a reporter playfully asked if Gobert had room for another award on his shelf, Gobert replied, “Yes, I have a little room.”
But after a brief pause, he changed his answer a bit: “I have plenty of room.”