Ricky Rubio addresses mental health concerns that forced him to take time away from basketball: ‘The player ate the person’

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Brian Westerholt-USA TODAY Sports

Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio shared why he took time away from basketball, citing mental health challenges that he faced.

“I developed a chronic stress, something similar to an anxiety disorder,” Rubio said in a press conference. “The only way to come back was to understand why I got to this point.

“I developed mechanisms that had led me to play at a high level but which were not sustainable. There is another way. Rome is reached by many paths.”

Rubio, who just signed a contract with FC Barcelona, played for several teams in his NBA career, including the Cavs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. He most recently played with Cleveland in the 2022-23 season, appearing in 33 games and making two starts.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft explained how he “didn’t know” who he was when going through his mental health challenges.

“The player ate the person,” Rubio said. “I didn’t know who I was. It was a difficult moment for me. I had fear. You are able to handle your fears and play down them. Life is full of greys. But I have saved myself, and now I am at ease. I am proud of myself, and I give basketball a new chance.”

It’s great to see Rubio getting another chance to play basketball, especially in his home country of Spain. The former Cavs guard revealed that he thought his career was over while he was battling his mental health issues.

“Still, I thought basketball was over [for me],” Rubio said. “But I kept working with myself, and I hope it helps people who are struggling. I was in the dark, but that’s how you get out of it. I live day by day. We try to control the uncontrollable, and you never know when life will take you down another path.”

Rubio was able to return to action for the Spanish national team at the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers. He also shared his gratitude to the Spanish Basketball Federation for allowing him to sit out the 2023 FIBA World Cup to work on his mental health.

“The Spanish Basketball Federation could have forced me to play [in FIBA World Cup 2023], but they didn’t,” Rubio said. “They gave me help and space, and it’s incredible to be back.”

While Rubio returning to the court is a good sign for his mental state, the veteran guard admitted that he will step away from the game if the issues return.

“I am 100 percent committed, but if at some point this [mental health issues] comes back, I will have to stop,” Rubio said. “I am here to contribute as much as possible this season. So, we will see.”

Cavs fans may no longer get to see Rubio in a Cleveland jersey, but the veteran guard getting his mental health back on track is something that all fans should be happy to celebrate.

During his NBA career, Rubio averaged 10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game while shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in the 2011-12 season while with Minnesota.

Hopefully, Rubio can make an impact for FC Barcelona and continue to find joy in the game of basketball.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.