by Lang Whitaker

You might remember the day in December when, apropos of nothing, I popped up in Barcelona to file game notes from the match between Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings? Well, as is often the case with SLAM, there was a little more going on than meets the eye. I was actually in Barcelona because we did a cover shoot the evening before with the two best point guards in the world who aren’t in the NBA: Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings.

img_6466The most amazing thing — by far — to me about this cover was that SLAM was the only media outlet not only at the game, but also the only outlet that cared enough about basketball to even ask about doing a photo shoot with Ricky and Brandon. We asked Ricky and Brandon if they’d give us the time, and surprisingly, they both agreed to, rather graciously. We obviously don’t have the limitless resources of SI or ESPN, but when this came together I hopped on a flight to Barcelona to be in the casa for it.

We shot this in a studio in the shadow of La Sagrada Familia, the perpetually under construction cathedral in Barcelona. Brandon was in town with Roma, and he showed up in a taxi. Ricky’s parents brought him (Ricky didn’t have his driver’s license yet but was taking lessons). They’d never met before, and Ricky’s English is good enough that they were able to talk and hang out. We were at the studio ntil after 11:00 p.m., doing the photos and the interviews. And Ricky’s parents are so nice — when they heard we hadn’t bought tickets to see Ricky and Brandon play yet on for the following night, they demanded we go with them and sit with them.

The point I tried to make in the story was that as basketball fans, we’re living in a totally new world. Because for the first time ever, if you wanted to see the two best NBA point guard prospects in the world, you couldn’t do it on ESPN or CBS. You needed YouTube and a Euroleague subscription and Google alerts. Brandon changed the game for US players, and Ricky’s changing it for European players.

Obviously, the cover line says Ricky and Brandon are ready to rock the NBA. And they both are. I can promise you that. I know whenever we mentioned either of them in a post, a lot of you guys start saying there’s no way these kids will make it, they’re not that good, etc. To which I say, you are wrong. I respect your right to have an opinion, but you’re not correct if you think Ricky and Brandon won’t be NBA stars.

We’ll find out soon enough. Brandon is definitely in the Draft this year. (When I asked him if he was going to enter the Draft, he not only said yes immediately but he also mentioned the date of the Draft off the top of his head.)

But is Ricky going to be in the Draft this year? Well, I don’t have a concrete answer for you. When I asked Ricky if he was going to be in the Draft, he said this:

SLAM: Do you want to play in the NBA next year, or I mean what’s your…?

RR: At the moment I only thinking Euro[pe]—

SLAM: Next year, yeah.

RR: ACB. So I don’t thinking NBA. Yeah, I think—

SLAM:  Eventually—

RR: I watch NBA. I think NBA. But no, at the moment, no.

rickybrandonslamSince then, I’ve heard many rumors. I’ve heard that Ricky’s contract buyout is so big (the number I heard was about $10 million) that he might not be able to buy it out and would have to wait until the contract expires next summer. I’ve heard a rumor that his team in Spain, DKV Joventut, could use the cash and would be willing to take less to let Ricky out of his deal. And I’ve heard most recently that negotiations are underway as I type this to get Ricky out of his contract.

I don’t know where the truth resides in this equation, but I will say this: I would not be surprised to see Ricky and Brandon both in the NBA next season. In the meantime, if you want to see them or hear from them, pick up the new SLAM, on newsstands everywhere next week. Copies are on the way to the Rubios as I type this, and Brandon got his copy yesterday and sent me an email that said, “Thanks for writing a great story, for the new SLAM on Me and Ricky. The COVER is HOT.”

Agreed. Here’s a little video I shot at the shoot, and it includes a few clips of each guy doing his thing. You can see it on YouTube here.

And we don’t stop…