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A decade before he made a buzzer-beater that defeated Oklahoma City, Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio launched a magical last-second shot that changed his life.

Back then, Rubio was a 15-year-old prodigy known in certain circles for making his Spanish professional playing debut at the tender age of 14.

But his name became known around the Internet — and thus the world — after his stunning halfcourt shot saved Spain and helped it beat Russia for the FIBA Under-16 European championship. All these years later, Rubio still considers the shot that defined his mind-boggling 51-point, 24-rebound, 12-assist, seven-steal performance that day a mystical moment.

It came three weeks after a childhood friend and teammate who played a career-altering role in his life by literally giving Rubio the sneakers off his feet was killed in a motorbike accident.

To this day, Rubio believes friend Guillem Raventos guided that shot into the basket and that is why he points his index finger skyward every game he plays now.

"Well, it was a sad story," Rubio said, "but I'm always going to remember him."

And the shot as well …

A game video — shot with one camera from the back row of a small, packed gym in Linares, Spain — still is out there on YouTube. (Watch it here, starting at 1:24.00) It shows Russia apparently winning the game in the final seconds on a three-point shot. But while Russian players ran back down the court leaping and his teammates jogged back stunned, a skinny point guard can be seen motioning for a teammate to inbound the ball.

A moment later, the skinny point guard gathered in a pass on one bounce at midcourt and in one lunging motion flung the ball past three Russian players. It banked high off the backboard and in just as the horn sounded. The home-country crowd erupted while Russian players stood motionless, their hands held behind their heads in disbelief.

"A lot, a lot," Rubio said when asked how many times he has watched that shot since then. "But the quality is not very good."

Spain won in two overtimes 110-106 for its first such title.

If there is such a thing as Legend of Ricky Rubio, did it start that day?

"Kind of, I mean, yeah," Rubio said the other day. "That was the biggest game I ever played with numbers and winning on a big stage, too."

His performance impressed Spanish national team officials, and two years later, at age 17 Rubio played in the Beijing Olympics against LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and current teammate Tayshaun Prince in the gold medal game.

He might never have made it there or perhaps even to the NBA if not for his friend Guillem. One day when Rubio was 14, the two friends watched Rubio's older brother, Marc, practice with their hometown Joventut Badalona senior team when famed coach Aito Garcia Reneses called Ricky down from the stands because he had just nine players there.

"They needed an extra one, and I was wearing sandal shoes; Barcelona is nice, you know?" Rubio said. "I asked Guillem could I borrow his shoes and he did. So I practiced and practiced well and next thing you knew I was in training camp."

And the rest, as they say, is …

Not long after, Rubio made his pro debut at age 14. The next summer, he made that stunning shot.

"I think I will never forget what happened there or the way it happened," Rubio recounted on his website. "There is no doubt that someone up there caught hold of that shot and led it into the basket."

He said that is why he now always points skyward, thanking his friend "not only for his friendship, but also his lending me his shoes and for having reached down from heaven and taken hold of the ball and pushed it with all his strength through the rim at Linares."

NBA short takes

Towns calls it right

This time last year, Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns played all the way through March Madness to the Final Four after choosing to attend Kentucky over Florida and other schools.

Oklahoma City's Billy Donovan was Florida's coach then and he recruited Towns hard. He said he knew he was in trouble when Towns told him he really liked Florida but wanted to take just one more trip: to Kentucky.

"I said, 'OK, we're probably going to lose out on that one,' "Donovan said. "Obviously, he made a great decision and great choice with what they achieved last year and being picked where he was picked in the draft. We would have loved to have had him."

Showtime is here

Golden State makes the season's final visit to Target Center on Monday. The Warriors arrive 30-6 on the road going into Saturday's game at San Antonio and with a 50-game home winning streak still intact.

He did what?

Recently signed Wolves center Greg Smith returned on Friday to Houston, where he played parts of three seasons and infamously was called at Toyota Center one night for a three-second lane violation after he stopped to tie his shoes there.

The moment landed him prominently on TNT's Shaqtin' a Fool segment.

Asked if the story's moral is not to tie your shoes in the lane or to do it faster, he said: "I think it's not to do it in the lane. I don't know why I did that. I looked over at Coach [Kevin) McHale's] face and he was just like, 'I can't believe that.' I watched the highlight after the game and I just laughed at myself."

Wolves' Week Ahead

Monday: 7 p.m. vs Golden State

Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Sacramento

Friday: 6 p.m. at Washington

Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Utah

All games on FSN

Player to watch: Stephen Curry, Warriors

Don't think about what might have been and instead appreciate a force of nature who has made nearly as many three-pointers by himself this season as have the Wolves, one of the teams to pass him by in the 2009 draft.


"It's pure luck. Most of the teams I don't even know which state they're in."

— Wolves guard Ricky Rubio, who went 16-for-16 in his NCAA tournament bracket on Thursday.