To be earmarked for greatness at a young age is a familiar feeling to many of the elite athletes who make up the NBA. However, even within the context of NBA players, Ricky Rubio was internationally known at a far more advanced stage than usual.
Rubio made his professional basketball debut a week shy of his 15th birthday, making him the youngest player in the history of the Spanish ACB league (considered to be one of the best leagues in the world), quite literally a child holding his own against grown men. As a 17-year-old in the 2008 Olympics, he helped the Spanish national team win silver, making him the youngest player to ever appear in the Olympic basketball gold medal game. His deft ballhandling, magical passing and general exuberance while playing drew comparisons to greats like "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Steve Nash.
The first time I took notice of Rubio was at the European Under-16 Championships, in late summer 2006. I watched the Spanish phenom put up a Herculean performance in the gold-medal game: 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals. Now in the NBA, some aspects of Rubio's game continue to amaze (passing), while others leave a lot to be desired (shooting). A year ago, I called him the 27th best player under 25 years old in the league. It's hard to believe he's just 23, as he's been in the basketball spotlight for so long. Still, it's undeniable that his game has stagnated.
Here's a look why, and how he can get back on track.