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Monday, December 31, 2012
Minnesota fan shows love for Ricky Rubio

By Bill Speros
Special to ESPN.com



Dean Pierce would like to get one thing straight: His mom doesn't plan on sleeping with Ricky Rubio, although she might snuggle up to the Timberwolves guard once in a while on a cold Minnesota night.

Georgia Pierce, 71, received a nearly 6-foot-tall blanket featuring a color pencil sketch of Rubio's face that became a viral piece of art when Rubio retweeted a photo of the Christmas Eve gift last week.

“@ondeckdean: @rickyrubio9 Mom had a very Ricky Christmas!Grandma loves you! Feliz Navidad! twitter.com/ondeckdean/sta…” wish her a happy holidays!

— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) December 25, 2012


Both Dean Pierce, 48 of St. Paul, Minn., who bought the blanket, and his mom are passionate fans of the Timberwolves, as well as the Twins, Wild and Vikings. But it's the 6-foot-4 Rubio, chosen out of Spain with the No. 5 pick of the 2009 draft, who is their favorite pro athlete. Dean Pierce used to own a sports-card collectibles store and his mom boasts a solid collection of Rubio cards and photos.

"I became a season-ticket holder since two days after they announced the team was coming to Minnesota [in 1987]," Dean Pierce told Playbook. "I've been through the lean times. Ricky is my kind of player because of the way he plays the game, with his super-creative passing and wanting to pass and not score. He has an affection for his game."

His mom shares those sentiments, he said, and the choice of turning the custom-drawn image of Rubio by artist Anthony Davis into a blanket was an easy one. The drawing cost Pierce $50; the cost for the blanket from photoweavers.com cost $128. "It looks phenomenal."

"She didn't even know what it was. Once she unfurled it -- she was shocked at how it could even come to be. It's not something you'd expect to see," said Pierce, who debuted the blanked before the Timberwolves game on Dec. 16, when Rubio returned from reconstructive knee surgery after a nine-month absence. "I had it unfurled so that anyone in stands could see it, but my seats are behind the scorer’s table so Ricky didn't."

After Pierce hit the Twitter lottery, at least among Rubio fans, and had his image retweeted, both he and his mom had to adjust to their new-found social media fame.

"I took the picture and tweeted it to Ricky," Pierce said. "I never thought of the possibility of him acknowledging it. He has [1.1] million followers. For him to be going through his tweets and respond to it, I can't put it into words. I'm floored that it even happened and gratified that he did it. For my mom, it's been kind of like a whirlwind. It's not like she's trying to spread the word. She's caught in a jet stream and had no idea it would happen."

As for Rubio, he told Minneapolis TV station KARE-11 that the gift was "awesome."

Dean Pierce's Twitter (@ondeckdean) bio says simply "NBA Fanatic," which, according to Pierce, "equals NBA Season-Pass and season tickets." He said his mom has attended "more than a hundred games" with him since the Timberwolves began play in 1989 and was unsure about Rubio's potential for stardom when he was initially drafted by the Timberwolves. "She was not as big a fan of Ricky as I was before he came. I was hard-selling him to her that he was going to be something special. She was skeptical because going from Europe to the NBA is a leap."

Georgia Pierce's passion for Rubio now knows no bounds. Well almost. The Rubio blanket will eventually have its own bed in an upstairs guest room. "She'll have it spread out so she can check it out whenever she can. But unlike some people have said, trying to be clever, she isn't intending to be sleeping with Ricky Rubio."

Bill Speros is an ESPN.COM contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @billsperos or via email at bsperos1@gmail.com.