SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Less than 24 hours after his biggest blocked shot of the season, it was only appropriate that Rudy Gobert was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the third time.
Gobert, who blocked Marcus Morris’ shot in the final seconds to secure a Game 1 victory against the L.A. Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals, became just the fourth player in NBA history to win the award three times, joining Dikembe Mutumbo, Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard.
“It’s unbelievable,” Gobert said. “When I started basketball as a kid, if somebody would have told me I was going to be Defensive Player of the Year, I would have never believed them, let alone three times. I try to write my own story, but just being one of only four guys that have won the award that many times, it’s just amazing.”
Gobert averaged 2.7 blocks per game this year, is the first Jazz player to win the award three times, passing the late great Mark Eaton, who won it twice in 1985 and 1989.
Gobert was very close with Eaton, who passed away last month at the age of 64. He wants to honor Eaton with his play on the court.
“I try not to get emotional, but I’ve been thinking about him,” Gobert said. “I’m sure he’s very proud and I’m going to try to keep making him proud and keep honoring his legacy.”
Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons finished second in the voting, with Golden State’s Draymond Green finishing third.
Gobert also won the award in 2018 and 2019, before Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won it last season.
With Gobert in the middle, the Jazz went 52-20 and earned the overall No. 1 seed for the first time. They limited teams to 44.7% shooting, second-lowest in the league.
Gobert averaged 14.3 points and 13.5 rebounds, tying a career high, in 71 games. His 2.7 blocks per game ranked second in the league.
While he is happy to win the award, Gobert has bigger goals in sight.
“I want to win a championship,” he said. “When I got drafted by the Jazz eight years ago, I told myself I will try to do anything I could to help this franchise get its first championship.”
Gobert and the Jazz host the Clippers in Game 2 Thursday night.