Closer Look: Rudy Gay
Get an inside look at how No. 8 has impressed teammates and coaches with a multitude of on- and off-court accolades.
Once described as “The Most Interesting Man in the NBA” in a comedic All-Star Game promotional campaign, Kings forward Rudy Gay’s list of accomplishments and pastimes may indeed make him worthy of the lofty title.
He was a highly-touted baseball player until a middle-school growth spurt led him on a path to basketball stardom.
A self-proclaimed thespian, he guest-starred on an episode of the hit TV show “The Game,” and enjoys watching reality programs including “Duck Dynasty” and “Pawn Stars.”
He’s the son of an R&B singer – Rudy Gay, Sr. of Ace Spectrum – with an eclectic musical playlist that features hip-hop moguls Jay-Z and Kanye West, electronic music duo Daft Punk and alternative rock band The Black Ghost.
He has a weakness for sweets, incorporating gummy worms, Starburst, Swedish Fish, Skittles or an occasional chocolate bar into his otherwise nutritious diet.
“Life is hard – I like to stay young and enjoy it,” says Gay with a wide smile. “I like to have fun, I like to joke around and I like to lighten the mood.”
Whether it’s providing fashion tips1, relationship advice as a husband and soon-to-be father or doling out lessons he’s learned from his first eight years in the League, No. 8 has served as a role model to numerous Kings players.
“He’s a great player for us, but he’s also a good person, a good leader (and) he’s great with the young guys,” says center Aaron Gray, a close friend who also played alongside Gay with the Raptors. “He made it really easy for (Quincy Acy) and me when we were traded here just because we knew the three of us were going to be here together. He’s the type of guy (who when) we had a day off in Memphis, took us all over for a team meal.
“I knew him from UConn – when he used to play against Pitt – and he’s matured so much, not only as a basketball player, but also as a human being. It’s good to be a part of the team here (with him).”
As seamlessly as the easy-going forward has fit in and bonded with teammates off the court, Gay has thrived on the hardwood since being acquired on Dec. 9, 2013, averaging 20.8 points per game on 50 percent from the field to go along with 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 37 games with the Kings. A fluid athlete capable of gracefully gliding to the basket, finishing above the rim and elevating over defenders for smooth long-range jumpers, the Baltimore, Md. native2 poured in a career-high-tying 41 points on 16-of-25 from the field and 5-of-8 from behind the arc against the Pelicans on Jan. 21.
“I give Rudy a lot of credit,” says Kings Head Coach Michael Malone. “Everybody wanted to jump on the analytic bandwagon about Rudy as one of the most inefficient players in the NBA – he was taking over 19 shots per game, 38 percent from the field, (the Raptors) weren’t winning. We looked at Rudy as a whole picture. We looked back at his time in Memphis – when he played with a very talented frontline – and we felt the combination of he and DeMarcus (Cousins) playing inside and out would be a potent combination. It’s proven to be (effective) so far.”
Sacramento has won 16 of 32 games in which Nos. 8 and 15 have started together in the frontcourt, according to NBA.com/stats.
“We feel we’ve gotten a steal in that trade,” says Malone. “And we only hope that Rudy is a Sacramento King for many, many years upcoming.”
Kings TV Color Analyst Jerry Reynolds has been equally impressed by the 6-foot-8 forward’s unique skill set and unparalleled athleticism, foreseeing a bright basketball future in the City of Trees.
“I think, when you look at it fairly, once you get past three or four different small forwards in the League, he’s right there,” says Reynolds. “He’s that level of talent – upper-echelon.
“The thing that’s surprised me about him is he’s a better all-around player than I anticipated. He really sees the floor (well), can make plays for his teammates and is a better rebounder than I anticipated. So for me, the best is ahead.”
One of only eight players in the League averaging over 19 points, six rebounds and one steal per contest, Gay – who grew up admiring the two-way games of perennial All-Stars Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady – has correspondingly embraced the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s biggest offensive threats.
In a road victory in N.Y. on Feb. 12, the UConn product admirably held Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony to 26.7 percent from the field in the second half and overtime, forcing the League’s second-leading scorer into a contested, missed jumpshot in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I asked him, going into that last possession of regulation, ‘Do we want to play Carmelo straight up here or do we want to double-team him (and) make somebody else make the play?’” revealed Malone postgame. “To Rudy’s credit, he said, ‘Coach, I got him. Let me play him straight up, one-on-one.’”
For Gay, the trust and playcalling from the coaching staff in Sacramento, as well as the opportunity to showcase every aspect of his multifaceted game has led to one of the most proficient stretches of his career.
“For the most part, Coach has put me in the right situation to be successful, and I’ve been trying to take advantage of it,” says Gay.
“I just needed a platform to show what I can do. I train hard. I honestly took maybe four days off this whole past summer.
Since entering the NBA in 2006, the Charm City native has worked diligently to refine his game and develop into one of the League’s premier scorers and playmakers, while earning the opportunity to not only travel across the country through the NBA, but explore numerous parts of the world.
“It’s a blessing for me,” he says, recalling recent tours of London and China. “I don’t think I would’ve even left Baltimore if it weren’t for basketball.”
In 2010, Gay helped lead the U.S. National Team to a gold medal in the FIBA World Championship, disclosing the experience played a pivotal role in shaping his basketball outlook and winning mentality, as well as allowed him to develop strong bonds with fellow rising stars.
“It was really fun and it showed me a lot – teamwork, sacrifice, hard work,” he says. “All those guys I played with, we all worked together and they’re like my brothers still. (Kevin Durant and I), we’ve always been close, (Derrick) Rose and I are cool, Andre Iguodala and I have always been close. (Russell Westbrook), Stephen (Curry) – we’re all pretty much cool still.”
Reflecting on his numerous on- and off-court accomplishments – from scoring more than 10,000 points as a pro to appearing in national TV commercials – the most interesting aspect for Gay has been the chance to put a smile on the faces of loved ones.
“At the end of the day, when my kids are born, (I can) just say those are some things their dad did,” he says. “(I’ll) have a little bit of a résumé.”
1 - Decked in gray slacks, a matching denim jacket and wingtips following a recent Kings win, Gay has not only embraced the role of on-court leader, but has become an instant locker-room trendsetter.
“I feel like I’m pretty fashionable. I know I am!” he says with a chuckle, disclosing the key to pulling off a great look is comfort. “(I tell younger teammates) all the time, they have to grow up. You can’t dress like you’re 16, back in wherever-you’re-from.”
2 - A die-hard fan of his hometown sports teams, Gay has been fortunate enough to follow Baltimore’s NFL team since inception and experience a pair of championships.