Rajon Rondo Makes Rare Choice by Placing NBA Championship Ahead of World Title


Rajon Rondo Makes Rare Choice by Placing NBA Championship Ahead of World Title Rajon Rondo is unique. No one can debate that.

The way he quarterbacks the Celtics’ offense with impeccable vision, the way he humiliates opposing point guards on the defensive end, the way he runs up and down the floor with boundless, game-changing energy — there’s no one in the NBA or in the world quite like him.

He’s also unique in his basketball worldview. That’s what we learned this week.

We’re just now beginning to get the full story on Rondo’s decision last month to leave USA Basketball before the tipoff of the FIBA World Championship. Rondo’s exit, on the eve of coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s final cut to round out his Team USA roster, raised a lot of questions about the young point guard’s priorities.

It didn’t take long for Rondo to answer them. The Celtics star sat down with ESPN’s Ric Bucher this week, telling him that “I feel like I had to take advantage of the opportunity I have right now to win another championship.”

So there you have it. While Rondo was back home in the States, resting up in preparation for another NBA season, Kevin Durant and the rest of the players chosen to represent America were in Turkey.

Winning a championship.

Durant, Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, and Lamar Odom all have gold medals to show for their dedication to Team USA. Rondo has had a month to relax. And that simple act of relaxation has proven something about Rondo’s outlook on the game: Winning in the NBA is more important to him than winning abroad. Beating the Lakers in the Finals in June means more to him than beating the world’s best in September.

To say the least, that’s not a common viewpoint.

Read on if you don’t believe me.

Here’s Durant on Aug. 15, in an interview prior to Team USA embarking for Turkey: “It?s a dream come true for me to be a part of something like this, and I?m so blessed and I?ve just got to continue to keep working. I?d rather win a gold medal than an NBA championship.”

Dwight Howard, Sept. 30, 2008, after the Olympics in Beijing: “Gold medal, baby. It’s the gold medal. It only comes around once every four years and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a different level. You’re playing not just for your team; you’re playing for your country.”

Kobe Bryant, July 22, 2008, before Beijing: “I think winning a gold medal is more important because you’re playing for your country. You’re not playing for a region or a state or a brand. You are playing for the United States of America.”

The examples go on and on and on. Countless stars have said it — international competition means more because it’s rarer, the competition is more challenging, and the prestige of winning resonates around the world.

But that’s not how Rondo sees it.

And that’s not surprising if you know the guy. Rondo’s not a worldly person, and I don’t mean that as an insult, he’s made a personal choice to be reserved and somewhat sheltered. He’s from a small town in rural Kentucky, and he was born and raised modestly. He’s not worried about what’s going on in Istanbul — he’s content to live a humble life in his own backyard.

Rondo’s not shy to admit that he doesn’t read the papers or watch SportsCenter. That stuff doesn’t concern him he just does his job and does it well. The outside world will have their opinions, but he couldn’t care less.

Leave it to Rondo to be the one guy who bucks the trend. He’s certainly not afraid to speak his mind, even when his viewpoints aren’t exactly popular.

And while Rondo’s decision to drop out of Worlds may have disappointed a few American fans, eager to see the young point guard on the world stage, it’s unquestionably good news for the Celtics. Their franchise player is now home, resting, letting his body recuperate, and preparing himself both mentally and physically for another grinding NBA season.

Come this fall, he’ll be back with a vengeance. Because soon he’ll have a shot at another NBA title, and that’s what he plays for.

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