Ricky Rubio of the Cleveland Cavaliers announced Saturday that he is taking a break from basketball to focus on his mental health, a move that comes as his Spanish national team prepares to defend its title at the FIBA World Cup that starts later this month.
Rubio was the MVP of the most recent World Cup four years ago, leading Spain to the championship and an 8-0 record in the tournament. The veteran point guard was also expected to be part of Spain’s team that will look to defend that crown in the World Cup that starts Aug. 25 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
“I have decided to stop my professional activity to take care of my mental health,” Rubio said in a statement distributed by the Spanish Basketball Federation, or FEB. “I want to thank all the support I have received from the FEB to understand my decision. Today #LaFamilia makes more sense than ever. Thank you.”
Rubio also asked that his “privacy be respected so that I can face these moments and be able to give more information when the time comes.” He left the Spanish team camp earlier in the week and did not play in the team’s 87-57 exhibition win over Venezuela on Friday in Madrid.
There is no indication how long Rubio’s break will last. NBA training camps open in about two months.
“We were informed today by Ricky and his representation that he has decided to step away from his illustrious basketball career to focus on his mental health at this time,” Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said Saturday. “We understand how difficult of a decision this was for him and will balance providing whatever support we can while simultaneously respecting Ricky’s request for privacy.”
The Spanish team will play a pair of games in Malaga, Spain next weekend, including an Aug. 13 matchup against USA Basketball — which is ranked No. 2 in the FIBA world rankings, behind the reigning World Cup champions. The games in Malaga are part of Spain celebrating its federation’s 100th birthday.
“People come before results,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said, doing so in a social media post. “All my love and support for Ricky, and my admiration for his transparency and through it his ability, once again, to lead by example.”
The 32-year-old Rubio is the oldest and, in terms of NBA years, the most experienced player on Cleveland’s roster. He has played in the league for 12 seasons, appearing with Minnesota, Utah, Phoenix and the Cavaliers.
He missed the majority of the past two seasons while recovering from a torn left ACL, and returned to the Cavs primarily as a reserve for 33 games at the end of this past season.
The Spanish federation said it “wishes to express its respect, admiration and affection for Ricky Rubio. #LaFamilia will be by the player’s side at all times.”
Rubio has averaged 10.8 points and 7.4 assists in his NBA career. He had a team-high 20 points in Spain’s 2019 World Cup final win over Argentina.
Rubio — who played his first pro game in Spain in 2005 when he was just 14 — was drafted No. 5 overall by Minnesota in 2009, and actually joined the Timberwolves two years later. He is a three-time Olympian and three-time World Cup team member for Spain.