He ended the 2010s as an all-decade nominee and an icon at one of the most successful clubs in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, but Rudy Fernandez actually started his glittering career by honing his skills and claiming glory in the EuroCup. Fernandez was a true teen prodigy, moving to the Spanish mainland from his native Mallorca to join Catalan club Joventut Badalona and make his senior debut at the age of 16. His EuroCup debut came the following season, at the start of the 2002-03 campaign, and he has not looked back since.
Rudy’s first game in continental competition came in the opening week of the 2002-03 EuroCup season, and it was an understated debut as he played 1:30 in Joventut’s home win over Ural Great Perm. He made just one more appearance that season, but his real breakthrough came the following year. Fernandez made 14 EuroCup appearances in the 2003-04 season, scoring in double figures on eight occasions and compiling impressive averages of 9.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.8 steals to help his team reach the quarterfinals. The next season was even better: even though he was still a teenager, Fernandez had become a key player for Joventut and averaged 27 minutes with 11.3 points per game. A stunning debut EuroLeague season followed, with the swingman blasting 15.8 points per game to earn the 2006-07 Rising Star trophy. Joventut then moved back into the EuroCup and it was in the 2007-08 season that Fernandez really wrote himself into the competition’s history by starring in a memorable title triumph. He particularly shone in the Final Eight, held in Turin over one April weekend. Joventut bested fellow Spanish team Valencia in the quarterfinals before Fernandez inspired a semifinals victory over Galatasaray with a personal competition high 27 points. The title game showed his ability to do a lot of everything, as he compiled 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot in a comfortable victory over another Spanish side, Girona. Fernandez was named the finals MVP, finishing his EuroCup career in the best possible fashion.
What came after
Fernandez’s exploits with Joventut had attracted attention from far afield, and in the summer of 2008 he accepted an offer to join Portland Trail Blazers. His first season in the NBA was an unqualified success as he was selected for the Rookie All Star Game, but injuries then disrupted his progress and he returned to Europe by signing on with Real Madrid in 2011 – the same summer that saw Pablo Laso take over as coach. He had another brief spell in the States with Denver Nuggets before returning to Madrid for good, and made a major instant impact in the 2012-13 season by averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals. That earned him a place in the All-EuroLeague First Team, but the season ended in collective disappointment with a Championship Game defeat against Olympiacos. The following season saw more of the same: another place in the All-EuroLeague First Team, and another Championship Game loss – this time against Maccabi. A long-awaited title was finally secured in 2015, with Fernandez named in the All-EuroLeague Second Team and starting 25 games as his team took the title by overcoming Olympiacos in the Madrid Final Four. He has remained a key member of the team ever since, adding another EuroLeague title in 2018, and his place as a true great of European basketball is assured.