Spain Native Gets Rare Chance To Meet Ricky Rubio At Target Center

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Spain Native Gets Rare Chance To Meet Ricky Rubio

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Aleix Cirera has a unique story to tell. The 16-year-old exchange student, currently going to school at Totino Grace, doesn’t get the chance to speak his native language very often. And prior to last Monday’s Wolves game against the Boston Celtics, he couldn’t pinpoint off the top of his head when he last spoke in Catalan.

He doesn’t have that trouble anymore.

Cirera got a rare opportunity to meet fellow Spanish native Ricky Rubio last week at Target Center. He and Rubio chatted, joked around and took photos together during pregame. Following his unique meeting with one of Spain’s most identifiable basketball players, Cirera, his host mom, Kari Brey, and his host parents’ nephews Ben Felton and Parker Clare, sat courtside for Minnesota’s 110-100 victory over the Celtics.

Rubio became a national sensation on the basketball court by the time he was 14. Cirera grew up watching Rubio but never got the chance to meet him in person. It took traveling more than 3,900 miles from home, but he got his chance last week.

He came holding a sign that read, "Ricky! I come from Elmsnou [his city] to see you! You are the biggest [best]!"

“He was always my idol, but I never got a chance to meet him—only watched him a couple times,” Cirera said. “It was kind of a really good experience.”

Cirera said it was one of the top experiences he’s had since coming to Minnesota in August. It might be tough for anything to top it by the time he returns to Spain in June.

Rubio has been gracious with fans in Minnesota since he arrived as a rookie last season, and he spread some of that hospitality to a lifelong fan who is not only from his native country, but his same region of Spain. The two talked about the schools they attended back home—sparking some impromptu trash talk.

“He said his school was better, but I said, ‘Yeah, but my English is better,’” Cirera joked back. “He just laughed about that.”

He then took in the game courtside, a much closer vantage point than he had ever watched Rubio play before. In Spain, Cirera said he’d seen Rubio play from the upper seats. This time, he was right there in the middle of the action. Cirera said his meeting with Rubio got media attention from a newspaper back in Spain. He said a lot of his friends saw the photo of him with Rubio holding his sign and were jealous of his opportunity.

Cirera’s host father, Pat Brey, said the family got the tickets through the Wolves’ organization. Wolves Senior Vice President of Marking and Communications/Chief Marketing Officer Ted Johnson said being able to facilitate this type of experience for a kid like Aleix, who has come from across the world to see Rubio and the Wolves play, is a reminder of how lucky we are in Minnesota to have an NBA team in our market. He said it’s special to see a dream like this come true.

“[For Cirera and Rubio] to connect with each other here is pretty remarkable,” Johnson said. “It speaks to the power of our game and the unique aspect of our game that fans not only are able to follow halfway across the world, but actually be able to connect with our players and interact with our players. It’s pretty special.”

Brey worked with the team for more about 3-4 months to find a game that worked to attend. He said Cirera hadn’t been so excited to get ready for school all year as he was the morning of the game. After he met Rubio, he couldn’t hide his excitement, either.

“My wife said that when he came back after meeting him, he couldn’t talk for like five minutes he was so overwhelmed by the whole thing,” Brey said.

Brey said he’s grateful to the Wolves for helping facilitate the event for Cirera and his family.

“I was absolutely floored,” Brey said. “Like I said, I can’t say enough about the organization.”

What are the odds that a kid from Rubio’s region gets the chance to watch his childhood idol play in the NBA nearly 4,000 miles away from home? Cirera knows how special and rare that night last week at Target Center really is.

“He went to the Wolves and I found out I was going to Minnesota—I hoped it happens,” Cirera said. “It’s really lucky. It’s one of the first things I thought about when I was coming here.”

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