Rudy Fernández is an undeniably successful basketball player. With Spain, he is a four-time European and two-time world champion, at the club level he has won 27 titles, most of them with Real Madrid. Source: Imago Images
Rudy Fernández is an undeniably successful basketball player. With Spain, he is a four-time European and two-time world champion, at the club level he has won 27 titles, most of them with Real Madrid. Source: Imago Images

Rudy Fernández – a good NBA player who got what he wanted from the EuroLeague

Basketball OlyBet 20.04.2024

The ever-moving Rudy Fernández was one of the best basketball players in Europe for many years, who had a decent career in the NBA, but it did not satisfy him. The Spaniard needed something more and decided to return to his home club.

Fernández announced on his 39th birthday that this season would be his last in professional basketball. However, he does not put an end to the club season, where his employer Real Madrid aims to win the EuroLeague and the Spanish championship but wants to do the last dance for the national team.

Namely, a qualification tournament for the summer Paris Olympics will be played in Valencia, Spain, where the hosts belong to the same subgroup as Lebanon and Angola. Poland, Finland, and the Bahamas are in the second group, to get to the semi-finals, it is necessary to secure a place among the top two in the group. Only the winner of the tournament gets a pass to the Olympics.

Spain is the favourite, but depending on the composition of the teams of Poland, Finland and the Bahamas, getting to Paris may not be easy. And while Fernández doesn’t play a huge role in the team, it would be nice if he could say goodbye to playing basketball on the biggest stage, like Argentina legend Luis Scola did at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Set a record in the NBA

Originally from Mallorca, Fernández moved to the mainland in 2002 when he joined the Catalan team Joventud Badalona. Together with clubmate Ricky Rubio, the Spaniard quickly became one of Europe’s biggest talents, won titles with the club both in his home country and in Europe, and it soon became clear that Fernández’s future lies in the world’s strongest league, the NBA.

In 2008, Fernández’s contract was bought out so he could join the Portland Trail Blazers, who had selected him 24th in the NBA draft the previous year. As he embarked on a new path, Fernández was especially grateful to head coach Aito Garcia Reneses, who coached him at Joventud. “Everything I know about basketball is thanks to him,” said the player.

Fernández joined the Blazers after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Spain reached the finals and gave the USA, represented by the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and other stars, a tough battle. The highlight of the tournament was provided by Fernández, who put Dwight Howard on the poster.

At the same time, Fernández was not the first basketball player from his family to play in a professional North American league. Her sister Marta, who is three years older, earned her keep in the women’s NBA in 2007 with the Los Angeles Sparks.

The NBA career of the protagonist of this story lasted only four seasons, but it wasn’t bad. In his debut season, he also set a Dream League record for the most 3-pointers made by a newcomer. Fernández’s record of 159 long-range shots remained in his hands for only one season, when Stephen Curry, who is considered the best shooter in history, hit 166 three-pointers in the 2009/10 season. It should be noted that last season the record was pushed over 200, when it was held by Keegan Murray (206) of the Sacramento Kings.

After three seasons with the Blazers and one with the Denver Nuggets, Fernández appeared in 267 NBA games, averaging just under ten points per game. Nothing amazing, but the European was firmly in the rotation and did not have to fear losing his job.

Back problems because of what happened in the NBA

In the summer of 2012, Fernández decided that his time in the NBA was over, at least for a while. He joined Real, signing a three-year contract where he earned just over three million euros in one season, making him one of the highest-paid players in the Old World.

Fernández explained that he is a better player in Europe than in the NBA and wants to be the leader of the team and win titles. If the latter goal could of course have been accomplished across the ocean, the first one could not.

At the same time, Fernández said that he will not close the NBA door for good and may return if he can fix his back. Back problems have accompanied his career since March 2009, when in a match against the Los Angeles Lakers, Trevor Ariza rammed him to the floor on a quick attack and the Spaniard was injured.

While Fernández went to the NBA from Joventud, he had played for Real before the 2012/13 season. The season before, there was a work stoppage in North America, so several stars came to Europe for a while to earn their keep. In addition to Fernández, the later NBA champion Serge Ibaka came to Real, for example, Danilo Gallinari went to Milan and Deron Williams to Besiktas in Istanbul.

On his full-time return to Real, Fernández emerged as a clear leader for the Spanish royal club, averaging just over 27 minutes on the pitch in his first three seasons in the EuroLeague. He scored his fair share of points, was a factor in the fight for the board, dished out assists and was an overall star of the Old World and worthy of a high salary.

Team success was also not insignificant. In 2015, Real ended a 20-year EuroLeague title drought when they crushed Olympiacos in the final. Three seasons later, they managed to repeat the triumph, but then Fernández was no longer the first violin of the club.

The burden of a dirty player

Although Fernández’s career has been extremely successful, there are also some drops of tar in this honeypot. The most famous of them is the incident in March 2013, when Kaunas Žalgiris fan Nauris Macius punched Fernández in the face.

The foundation for what happened in Lithuania was laid in a match between the two clubs in Madrid, where Fernández threw a ball at Žalgiris’s Kšištof Lavrinovič head and started a fight with Paulius Jankunas at the final whistle.

Žalgiris lost this match 74:75, and in Kaunas, Real won again by one point, 105:104. Fans of the honor and pride of Lithuanian club basketball cursed Fernández for the entire match, the Lithuanian Martynas Pocius, who played for Real at the time, said before the game “I hope Rudy will not be killed in Kaunas”.

Fortunately, the situation didn’t get that bad, but Fernández did get screwed, to put it bluntly. Macius explained that although he regrets the hit, the Spaniard just made him so nervous. He told the Lithuanian media: “When he walked past me, he bumped me on the shoulder and said bad things about Lithuania, for example, that our country is communist. My emotions got the better of me and I punched him in the face.”

Macius was indeed overcome not only by emotions but also by alcohol because according to the Lithuanian police, his alcohol permille rate was 2.62.

In December 2021, Real once again won an extremely even game when they beat Milan 75:73. Shavon Shields, the hosts’ 18-point scorer, drove to the basket 46 seconds before the final buzzer, collided with Fernández and landed so badly that he injured his right hand. He was unable to shoot free throws and did not return to the court. Two days later, Milano announced that Shields would undergo surgery and be out for an extended period due to an injury to his right hand.

Shields’ teammate at the time, Malcolm Delaney, later wrote on social media that Fernández played dirty against Shields and that such behaviour should be punished.

Although surely, by the time Fernández finally hangs up his sneakers, his achievements will outweigh the questionable actions, because there are very few of those in European basketball whose careers have been as successful as Rudy’s. Most of all, he is remembered for his powerful layups and long-range shots, not that he got hit by a drunken Lithuanian or behaved dirty against Shields.


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