06 Jan

‘I’m still working on my mental health’

Ricky Rubio announced his retirement from the NBA on Thursday, shortly after agreeing to a buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rubio did not play at all this season after stepping away from the team to address his mental health in August. If he is to suit up again professionally in any capacity, all signs point to that happening in his native Spain, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

Rubio’s statement read, in part:

“July 30th was one of the toughest nights of my life. My mind went to a dark place. I kind of knew I was going on that direction, but I’ve never thought I wasn’t under control of the situation. The next day, I decided to stop my professional career.

“One day, when the time is right, I would love to share my full experience with you all so I can help support others going through similar situations. Until then, I would like to keep it private out of respect for my family and myself, as I’m still working on my mental health. But I’m proud to say I’m doing much better and getting better everyday.

“I wanted to post this message for you today because my NBA career has come to an end.”

The 33-year-old Rubio had been limited to just 67 games over the past two seasons due to a torn ACL, but his career seemed to be back on track after he returned at the end of last season and agreed to a three-year, $18 million deal with the Cavaliers in the summer. That all changed when Rubio informed the team he needed a mental health break. The Cavaliers supported Rubio over the past five months, but when it became clear that he did not intend to play in the NBA again, the two sides began discussing a buyout which was finalized on Thursday.

Rubio first burst onto the basketball scene as a teenage phenom in Spain, where he turned pro as a 14-year-old and made history as the youngest player to debut in Liga ACB. By 17 he was already a member of the Spanish national team and won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. When he checked into the gold medal game against Team USA’s “Redeem Team,” he became the youngest player to appear in an Olympic final.

A year later he declared himself eligible for the 2009 NBA draft and was selected No. 5 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He spent the next two seasons playing with Barcelona, however, and did not make the jump to the NBA until 2011. Rubio was an immediate fan favorite thanks to his flashy playmaking, but his strong debut season was cut short by a torn ACL and he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Injuries would unfortunately become a theme for Rubio throughout his career. He missed nearly half of the 2012-13 season recovering from his ACL tear, then was limited to 22 games in 2014-15 because of an ankle injury that required surgery. In 2018, he made the playoffs for the first time in his career with the Utah Jazz, but a hamstring injury in the first round cut that run short. Then there was the second ACL tear in 2021, which occurred only a few weeks after he recorded his 5,000th career assist.

All told, Rubio appeared in 698 career games with the Timberwolves, Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Cavaliers, and averaged 10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists. His 19 assists on March 13, 2017 remain a Timberwolves franchise record, and his 5,160 assists are the third-most ever by an international player, behind only Steve Nash and Tony Parker.