Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 9/12/12
It's been more than a year since Ricky Rubio signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves and began the evolution from European teen sensation to NBA star. After his abbreviated season in which he established himself as one of the best rookies in the league, it's easy to forget that across the Atlantic, the 21-year-old Rubio is still something more than a basketball player. He's a pop icon. Before returning to the United States he's currently in Vail, Colo., for a checkup on his injured knee Rubio appeared on the Spanish talk show El Hormiguero. He was without crutches, that shaggy beard or a basketball jersey, the same old Rubio that Spain has come to love, and he proceeded to compete in a basketball version of Connect Four with the show's diminutive host. The game itself is fun to watch Rubio's shot looks solid, and there's nary a hint of his March ACL injury but everyone knew he'd win. What's perhaps more interesting is the Spanish pop music pulsating through the set and the accented cheers of Ricky! Ricky! Ricky! It's a glimpse into the phenomenon that is Rubio in Spain, a reminder that maybe the madness in Minneapolis was normal by comparison. And then there's the crowning moment of it all. Preparing to face off against Rubio, the show's host pulls a blue Timberwolves No. 9 jersey over his pressed white shirt. It fits him more like a basketball dress than anything that would be acceptable to wear on a court, and between the costume and his awkward shot, it's the best kind of comedy. The video is nothing groundbreaking. We learned last year that Rubio could shoot despite his detractors' insistence that he couldn't before his NBA debut, and it's no surprise that he could win a fun basketball game like the one the show staged. What's most exciting, though, is the video's implicit reminder of the Rubio-mania that colored Minnesota sports from last December to March. It's a hint that this kind of fun will be back, and soon. Rubio is targeting a December return, and the team needs his entertainment and excitement as much as it needs his basketball skills. Ricky! Ricky! Ricky! Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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