When was the glory days of European basketball? right now
Which country comes to mind when you think of basketball? That’s right. USA.
I still can’t forget the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that I saw as a child. The United States, which gave away the gold medal to the Soviet Union in men’s basketball at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and only won a bronze medal, will compete in the Barcelona tournament four years later as a ‘dream team’ made up of NBA stars.
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler and Christian Leitner. Except for Laitner, who was at Duke University at the time, they were all living legends of the NBA.
The USA won the gold medal with an overwhelming performance, beating Lithuania by 51 points in the semi-final and Croatia by 32 points in the final. Even after that, the US men’s basketball did not miss the gold medal until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, except for the 2004 Athens Olympics, where Manu Ginobili led Argentina.
However, the pride of the United States, which is regarded as the absolute supreme of basketball, has recently been damaged. In the NBA, the highest stage, the season MVP has been given to Europe for the last four years.
Greek national Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) won MVP honors in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. In the 2020-2021 season and the 2021-2022 season, Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) from Serbia was voted MVP for two consecutive years.
The NBA selects the first team, meaning the league’s best five, every season. In the last two seasons, Antetokounmpo, Jokic and Slovenia’s Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) have been named to the first team.
In other words, when the league picked the best 5 players in a season, there were 3 Europeans, more than Americans (2). Now, in the NBA, European players are becoming the main pillars of the league, not sidekicks next to American stars. It also means that the globalization that the NBA has been promoting for 20 years is seeing the light.
Even in the NBA this season, the momentum of the Europeans is unstoppable. Giannis and Jokic are running ahead and behind in the season MVP race. Let’s take a look at the European stars who changed the NBA game.
★ Born on February 28, 1999 (age 23)
★ Height 201cm·104kg ★ Point guard
★ Dallas Mavericks (#77)
★ NBA 2018-2019 Season Rookie of the Year
2019-2020, 2020-2021, 2021-2022 Season First Team
All-Star 3 2022-2023
season average 34.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists
★ Slovenia National Team
2017 EuroBasket Championship
2020 Tokyo Olympics 4th place
Luka Doncic is a 23-year-old superstar who has already been selected to the NBA First Team three years in a row.
He ranks first in league scoring average (34.0 points) this season and is looking to become the MVP of the season. If Doncic wins the MVP, the NBA will have a European player win the MVP for the fifth consecutive season. Of course, the momentum of Nicola Jokic, who is aiming for three consecutive awards, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is aiming to recapture MVP for the first time in three years, are also great. Come to think of it, they are all European players.
Doncic is from Slovenia, a small country with a population of 2 million. Slovenia, which gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, is a country that embraces the Alps, so it is strong in skiing.
I won 24 medals at the Winter Olympics, 8 in alpine skiing and 7 in ski jumping.
As a country that belonged to Yugoslavia, it is also good at soccer. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) represents the Slovenian national team. Old fans will remember the playmaker Zlatko Zahovic who participated in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. Even though Zahovich played only one game and fought with the manager, he returned home.
Men’s basketball is the sport that Slovenia is most proud of. Slovenia won the 2017 Eurobasket, the European championship, and became a European powerhouse in name and reality. At that time, Goran Dragic (Chicago Bulls) led the team, and Doncic, a fearsome teenager at Real Madrid, supported the team. Doncic’s Slovenia made their first Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2021, reaching the semifinals.
Dončić, who made Slovenia a basketball powerhouse, has been known as ‘the cotyledon that will rise’ since childhood. Doncic, whose father is a basketball player, made his debut in the Spanish first division in 2015 in a Real Madrid jersey when he was 16 years old. In the 2017-2018 season, he dominated the European stage at the age of a teenager, sweeping Spain and Euroleague MVP.
Doncic, who stepped onto the NBA stage in the 2019 draft with the third pick in the first round, was different from other rookies who boasted their presence with explosive athleticism. He stood out with his excellent basketball sense and brilliant skills for his age. After the crossover where he dribbles between his legs, the fans went crazy for the graceful stepback 3-point shot shot while running one step back.
When Doncic fired a clutch shot at the decisive moment, local broadcasters cheered, “Lucca time!” He also came up with the nickname ‘Hallelujah’, a combination of ‘Hallelujah’ and his first name ‘Luca’.
Doncic, who won Rookie of the Year in his first year of debut, showed confidence by saying, “I don’t know if there is such a thing in American basketball, but I don’t have it” in response to a question from reporters who were concerned about the “second year jinx.” Just as he said, Donchichi ran without hesitation. In the 2019-2020 season, he broke the record held by Michael Jordan (18 games) by posting 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists or more in 20 consecutive games.
From the 2019-2020 season to the 2021-2022 season, Doncic consistently posted an average score of 27 to 29 points, 8 to 10 rebounds, and 8 to 9 assists in three consecutive seasons. In his three seasons he recorded only 40 triple-doubles.
Especially last season, his performance in the playoffs was dazzling. Doncic, who boasts a ‘strong heart’, is famous as a player with better playoff results than regular season.
He led the team’s offense with an average of 35.7 points in the 2021 playoffs, and also led the team to the conference finals by posting 31.7 points in last year’s playoffs as well. In the Western Conference semifinals, with Doncic at the forefront, the Mavericks, who caused a stir by defeating the Phoenix Suns, the regular season 1st place team, 4-3, lost 1-4 to the Golden State Warriors in the conference finals.
Doncic, who came one step closer to winning last season, is getting stronger this season. His scoring average on the season so far is a career high.
Doncic looks much taller than his profile weight (104kg) on the NBA website at a glance. He makes good use of his thicker upper body to drive opponents with post-ups, then easily scores with accurate mid-range jumpers.
He’s good at three-point shooting, and he’s good at the two-men game that uses teammates. His speed isn’t great, but his excellent ball handling lets his game flow and his unique tempo control confuses opponents. Above all, his pass sense based on his excellent BQ is excellent. It really feels like watching ‘Basketball Master’. 메이저놀이터
Doncic set a historic record of 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists against the New York Knicks on the 28th of last month. He was the first player in NBA history to record 20 rebounds and 10 assists while scoring 60 points in a single game.
He also broke the record for most points scored in a single game for the Mavericks. The Mavericks have recently risen to fourth place in the Western Conference thanks to Doncic’s performance.
Founded in 1980, the Dallas Mavericks have only topped the NBA once. It was the year 2011 led by German-born Dirk Nowitzki (45), one of the best European players of all time.
‘One Club Man’ Nowitzki, who played 21 seasons for the Mavericks alone, reigned as the best forward in the league with his ‘cradle’ fade away shot, which he shot with only one leg. He enjoyed the thrill of winning the 2011 Finals by defeating the Miami Heat, which made up the ‘Big 3’ of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Nowitzki’s skills were recognized by fans enough to be selected as an All-Star 14 times.
As a Mavericks fan, watching Doncic naturally reminds me of Nowitzki.
Following Nowitzki, the best player in Europe, Dončić, a fearless junior in Europe, has faith that he will give the team another championship. Now in its fifth season of the NBA, Doncic’s future is bright.
★ Born on February 19, 1995 (age 28)
★ Height 211cm·129kg, Center
★ Denver Nuggets (Squad No. 15)
★ NBA 2020-2021, 2021-2022 Season MVP
2018-2019, 2020-2021, 2021-2022 Season First Team
2019-2020 season Second Team
All-Star selection 4 times
★ 2022-2023 season average 25.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 9.7 assists
★ Serbia National Team
2016 Rio Olympics Silver Medal
Nikola Jokic is challenging for a third consecutive MVP this season.
NBA MVP three consecutive victories (連覇) is a record that does not come easily enough that Larry Bird, who won the MVP from the 1983-1984 season to the 1985-1986 season, is the last. It’s a record that neither Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have achieved.
Jokic is still showing off his ‘all-around beauty’ by posting good results in various categories such as scoring, rebounding, and assisting this season. Dubbed the ‘Joker’ thanks to the name ‘Jokic,’ he’s been showing off his league-top skills for years.
In basketball, there is a PER, like baseball’s WAR (Win Contribution to Substitute Player). Created by ESPN, it’s a stat that shows how productive a player is per minute.
Jokic hit an all-time high of 32.85 in the 2021-2022 season. For reference, the player with the highest career PER is Jordan. He scored 27.91.
As his stats suggest, Jokic is an extremely productive player. With his massive physique, he is difficult for most opponents to eat when aiming for the rim through post-ups.
But what’s scarier is that he’s good at assembling games, averaging close to 10 assists. Jokic is so good at passing that he is often referred to as the ‘point center’, a combination of a point guard and a center. In a survey of NBA general managers ahead of this season, Jokic was voted the best passer, beating many point guards.
He leads the attack, which is rare for a center, and distributes passes in the right places. It confuses opponents with a variety of options, such as stabbing right under the goal or connecting to an empty perimeter player to make a 3-pointer. He is also the best at using the screen.
He resembles his European junior, Don Cicci, in that he plays the game with his excellent basketball sense rather than his athletic ability. His rebounding ability made use of his size is also excellent, recording 87 triple-doubles in his career.
Jokic was born in the Serbian region of Somborland. He is a region belonging to the Autonomous Prefecture of Vojvodina, which is also a periphery in Serbia. That’s why the turnaround shot Jokic throws while pushing his opponent away with his big hips is called the ‘sombor shuffle’ after his hometown.
Serbia and other former Yugoslavia countries are pretty good at basketball. Doncic’s Slovenia was also a country that belonged to the Yugoslavia.
In the meantime, many stars have come out of the former Yugoslavia. Peja Stojakovic (45) and Vlady Divac (54), who led the golden age of the Sacramento Kings, called the ‘Millennium Kings’ in the early 2000s along with Chris Webber and Mike Bibi, are from Serbia.
Tony Kukoc (54), who formed a ‘dynasty’ with Jordan and Pippen at the Chicago Bulls, is Croatian.
Drazen Petrović (1964-1993), who won silver medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 1992 Barcelona Olympics with the Yugoslavia and Croatian national team, is a very unfortunate player. After conquering the European stage and jumping into the NBA, he was selected for the third team in the league in 1993, but died in a car accident in Germany after the season.
Right now, Portland Trail Blazers’ stalwart center Yusuf Nugich, 28, stands out. The Bosnia-Herzegovina native is averaging 14.2 points and 10.1 rebounds this season.
Shall we go back to Yokichi? He preferred horseback riding to basketball as a child, but he quickly rose to prominence because of his talent for basketball. He was 17 years old when he made his debut in the Serbian League in 2012, averaging over 10 points from his second season and garnering attention. However, for the world basketball world to pay attention, Serbia was too far away.
But the Denver Nuggets recognized his potential. Jokic was selected 41st overall in the 2014 draft.
Usually, when someone is nominated in the draft, the broadcaster provides a detailed introduction of the player’s school, position, and characteristics along with a data screen. However, ESPN, the broadcaster at the time, did not expect that Yokic would be nominated at all, and eventually, when Yokic was drafted, there was no prepared material, so the ‘Taco Bell’ advertisement went out.
The information about Jokic, who went out with an appetizing cheese burrito, was just one line, ‘Nikola Jokic (power forward), Serbia.’ There is no such reversal as an unknown player from Serbia, who was pushed by Taco Bell burrito ads, enjoyed the glory of NBA MVP just seven years later.
Founded in 1967, the Denver Nuggets entered the NBA in 1976. In the meantime, stars such as Alex English, Dikembe Mutombo, and Carmelo Anthony have been on the court, boasting a fairly long history, but have never reached the top.
I never even made it to the finals. Considering that the Denver Broncos of the NFL (Misprofessional Football) and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL (North American Ice Hockey League) are prestigious teams that share the same hometown, it seems that Jokic should work harder.
Jokic’s Nuggets are 27-13 this season and lead the Western Conference. Can the Nuggets, who continued their ‘cruelty’ in the playoffs even after achieving good results in the regular league, achieve their dream of winning this season? Also, can Jokic achieve the feat of being MVP three times in a row? This is the main point of watching the NBA this season.
★ Born on December 6, 1994 (age 28)
★ Height 213cm·110kg, Power Forward
★ Milwaukee Bucks (#34)
★ NBA 2018-2019, 2019-2020 Season MVP
2021 Finals Championship & MVP
2016-2017 Season MIP
2018- 2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021, 2021-2022 season first team
2016-2017, 2017-2018 season second team
2019-2020 season Defender of the Year
All-Star 6 times
★ 2022-2023 season average 31.7 points 11.8 rebounds 5.2 assists
★ Greece National Team
EuroBasket 2022 Top Scorer
Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the NBA’s most iconic superstars. He is actually the main character of the ‘Human Victory Drama’.
Giannis was born to parents who immigrated illegally from Nigeria to Greece. Even as a teenager, he roamed the streets of Athens with his older brother and helped the family by selling sunglasses, bags and watches.
But his great physique and monstrous athleticism, which he inherited from his parents who both played soccer and track and field, changed his life. He worked his way through the local basketball club and earned recognition for his skills while playing in the second division of Greece. He even received Greek citizenship at the age of 18 and was named to the Greece Under-20 national team.
Giannis, who showed his talent early, was selected 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft. In the 2016-2017 season, the 4th year of the league, he received the MIP (Promotional Progression Award) for the first time with an average score (22.9 points) exceeding 20 points.
Giannis has a popular nickname, ‘Greek Freak’. That’s how powerful it is on the court.
In particular, he is considered one of the most powerful players in the NBA. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he has no one to stop him in fast-break situations.
Despite being 211cm tall, he boasts incredible speed and jumping power, so he can reach the opponent’s rim and dunk in just a few steps. The stride length of the Eurostep is so large that if you step on the 3-point line, you are immediately under the goal. Even in ground-breaking situations, he efficiently creates space to attack, then he scores with his excellent finishing ability.
It was in the 2018-2019 season that Giannis’ skills were in full bloom. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 blocked shots, averaging MVP for the season.
It was the second European award after Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks (2006-2007 season). In the 2019-2020 season, he was honored as the back-to-back MVP with an average of 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds. Boasting not only his offensive but also top-notch defensive skills, Giannis was even voted Defender of the Year that season.
Thanks to Giannis’ performance, the Milwaukee Bucks become the team with the most wins in the regular league in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. However, in the playoff stage, I drank a lot.
In the 2018-2019 season, he fell to the Toronto Raptors with 2 wins and 4 losses in the Eastern Conference finals, and in the 2019-2020 season, he collapsed with 1 win and 4 losses to Miami Heat, ranked 5th in the East, in the conference semifinals. When we entered the playoffs, there were many scenes where Giannis struggled against the tight defense of strong teams.
Despite the long history at the time (founded in 1968), the Bucks won the championship only once, in 1971. Giannis was a rare big star in Bucks history, far from a prestigious club. It was natural for him to receive love calls from popular teams.
When the Bucks were eliminated in the playoffs one after another, the possibility of Giannis moving to another team without renewing his contract for the championship was raised. There was also a prospect that he would move to a team with superstars and build a ‘super team’ like LeBron James, who made the ‘Big 3’ by going to the Miami Heat.
However, Giannis remained loyal to the Bucks, a small market team. He signed a new five-year contract with the Bucks in December 2020. Of course, the Bucks also gave Giannis a hot bundle of money, a total of 228.2 million dollars (284.5 billion won at the time) over 5 years.
Anyway, Giannis, who showed a weak appearance on the playoff stage and had the disgrace of ‘bird breasts’, completely erases that stigma in the 2020-2021 season playoffs.
He played a crucial role in sweeping the Miami Heat 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs. In the conference semifinals, they defeated the Brooklyn Nets, who were considered strong candidates for the championship, with a record of 4 wins and 3 losses. He scored over 30 points in every game except Game 2 in ‘Show Down’ against Kevin Durant. In particular, he poured 40 points in Game 7.
Giannis suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of the conference final against the Atlanta Hawks. Despite the absence of Giannis, the Bucks advanced to the finals for the first time in 47 years with Chris Middleton and others struggling. Opponents were the Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
Giannis, whose participation in the finals was uncertain, miraculously returned after a week of being sidelined due to a knee injury. Record 40 points or more than 10 rebounds in a row in the 2nd and 3rd games of the finals.
And the fateful Game 6 ahead with 3 wins and 2 losses. Giannis, who overcame the weakness of his free throw success rate and scored 17 out of 19 free throw attempts with high concentration, confirmed the Bucks’ championship with a monstrous performance of 50 points, 14 rebounds and 5 block shots.
Citizens of Milwaukee, who tasted the first major professional sports championship in 50 years since 1971, chanted Giannis’ name and were drenched in joy. (The MLB Milwaukee Brewers have yet to win a championship, and the NFL and NHL teams are not in Milwaukee.)
Of course, the Finals MVP was Giannis. He’s not yet 30, but he’s already achieved a lot in the NBA, including championships, finals MVP, and season MVP.
Considered one of the best stars in Milwaukee sports franchise history, Giannis boasts explosive offense with an average of 32 points this season. In the last 5 he scored a career-high 55 points against the Washington Wizards. The Bucks are in third place in the Eastern Conference and are aiming for their first title in two years.
★ Born on May 3, 1996 (26 years old)
★ Height 216cm·109kg, Power forward
★ Sacramento Kings (#10)
★ Selected as NBA All-Star twice
2022-2023 season average 18.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists
★ Lithuania national team
2015 Euro basket silver medal
Before we talk about Domantas Sabonis, I think we should talk about his home country, Lithuania. Lithuania is one of the three Baltic countries along with Estonia and Latvia, and basketball is its national sport.
Lithuania, a small country with a population of 2.8 million, is a powerhouse that won three consecutive bronze medals in men’s basketball at the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games. He has won three European Championships, the EuroBasket.
In 1937, before being annexed by the former Soviet Union, Lithuania made its presence known to the world by climbing to the top of the EuroBasket. When the Olympics or the EuroBasket are held, Lithuanians enthusiastically support each other, just as Koreans watch the FIFA World Cup.
The 1988 Seoul Olympics is an indispensable event in the history of basketball in Lithuania. At that time, the Soviet Union defeated the United States, which had university students such as David Robinson, in the semifinals. Lithuanian players accounted for 62 of the 82 points the Soviet Union scored against the United States in the semifinals.
As mentioned earlier, shocked by this defeat, the United States will build a dream team composed of NBA stars from the next event, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The Soviets beat Yugoslavia in the final and revel in the thrill of victory.
At that time, the player who led the Soviet Union team and trampled the pride of the United States was Lithuanian basketball hero Avidas Sabonis (58).
In the heyday of the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union were in the Cold War, so he did not want to play in the NBA, but after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1995, at the age of 31, he wore a Portland Trail Blazers uniform. Some say that if Sabonis had stepped on the American stage in his prime, NBA history would have changed. He was so good at his skills.
The 221cm center Sabonis, despite his tall stature, showed a soft shot touch, passing, and ball handling ability that reminded me of the current Jokic. This shined even during the NBA, when his athletic ability was greatly reduced due to overlapping injuries. He averaged 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in seven NBA seasons.
The son Abidas gave birth to in Portland is now introducing Domantas Sabonis.
After attending Gonzaga University, he was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Since then he has been playing for the Sacramento Kings since February of last year through the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.
Savonis is showing excellent rebounding ability in his NBA. This season he leads the league in assists per game with a 12.4 average. He’s also good at passing, with close to seven assists a game.
However, he has a smaller physique than his father, and his athletic ability is average, so he is regretful in terms of his defense. Also, in the recent NBA, centers and power forwards also boast accurate outside shooting skills, but their shooting skills are weak, so they do not fit that trend.
Still, Sabonis has been improving overall this season and leading the Kings’ run. After failing to make the playoffs for 16 consecutive years starting with the 2006-2007 season, the Kings are showing their playoff hopes this season with a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference.
In addition to Sabonis in Lithuania, Jonas Balansunas (30) is active on the NBA stage. The orthodox center (211cm) for the New Orleans Pelicans is 15th in rebounding with 9.7 this season.
Zidrunas Ilgauskas (47), a star loved by Cleveland Cavaliers fans and whose number 11 has been permanently removed, is a basketball star that Lithuania is proud of.
Latvia, another country in the three Baltic countries, also has some pretty famous players. Kristaps Porzingis (27, Washington Wizards) is recording 22.0 points and 9.0 rebounds this season. He has received great attention since his New York Knicks days, but it is evaluated that his skills have not been in full bloom due to frequent injuries.
★ Born on May 22, 1997 (age 25 ) ★ Height 213cm
·109kg, Power forward
★ Utah Jazz (#23 uniform)
★ 2022-2023 season average 24.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists
★ Finland national team
Northern Europe is a strong ice hockey region. When looking at the nationality of NHL players, Sweden and Finland account for the second highest percentage after Canada and the United States. In Sweden, soccer is quite good, so soccer and ice hockey compete for number one sports, but in Finland, ice hockey is by far the most popular sport.
By the way, there is an NBA star in Finland, the country of ice hockey. Utah Jazz forward Lauri Makkanen.
Makkanen was born in the Finnish capital city of Vantaran, near Helsinki. His father, Pekka Makkanen, is a three-time Finnish Basketball Player of the Year legend. Rauri Makkanen naturally grew up as a basketball player, influenced by his father (his son Lauri has already surpassed his father by being voted Finnish Basketball Player of the Year for five consecutive years since 2017).
After playing in the Finnish league, Makkanen entered the American basketball scene in earnest when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 2016. After being named to the NCAA third team during his freshman year, he applied for the draft ahead of his sophomore year and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 7th overall pick. He was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls.
Markanen, who emerged as the Bulls’ hope after showing good form from his rookie season, led the team’s offense with an average of 18.7 points in the 2018-2019 season. However, he slowly faded away from the hearts of Bulls fans as he showed limitations in his defensive abilities.
Eventually, he wore a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform as a trade ahead of the 2021-2022 season. However, Makanen, who still failed to make a noticeable performance, moved his nest back to jazz.
In fact, he showed an unusual appearance in the Eurobasket held before this season. He represented Finland, where he averaged 27.9 points and led the team to the quarterfinals.
Was there an effect of warming up properly in EuroBasket? Makkanen has exploded his potential at Utah this season.
Makkanen is averaging 24.5 points this season, up 10 points from last season. He became the team’s number one scorer. In the end, it seems that the jazz uniform was the right outfit for Makkanen.
After making nine 3-pointers against the Detroit Pistons last month, he scored a career-high 49 points against the Houston Rockets on the 6th. At this rate, his first All-Star dream is likely to come true.
★ Born on October 21, 1990 (32 years old)
★ 188cm 86kg, point guard
★ Cleveland Cavaliers (uniform number 13)
★ No participation in the 2022-2023 season
★ Spain national team
2008 Beijing Olympic Silver Medal
2016 Rio Olympics Bronze Medal
2019 FIBA World Cup Gold Medal (MVP)
2009·2011 EuroBasket Gold Medal
Come to think of it, we haven’t talked about this country yet while discussing European basketball. Spain is a traditional European powerhouse. Although Spain boasts a total of 4 championships in EuroBasket, the reality is that there are no big stars that dominate the NBA recently.
Spain’s representative, Ricky Rubio, has yet to make an appearance on the court this season due to injury. His NBA debut was hailed as a game-changing point guard, but he fell short of expectations. Still, he averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season and had decent performances.
Rubio is a ‘Patriot’ type of player who does much better in a varsity uniform. After winning a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 18, he won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He is a member of the Euro Basket winning team in 2009 and 2011. He won MVP at the 2019 FIBA World Cup after leading Spain to victory.
When you think of Spain, the basketball stars that come to mind are the Gasol brothers, who can’t be seen in the NBA right now.
His older brother, Pau Gasol (42), is a legend who has been honored with a permanent absence (number 16) from the LA Lakers. Together with the late Kobe Bryant, he won the NBA Finals in 2009 and 2010 for two consecutive years.
As a member of the Spanish national team, he also won silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and a gold medal at the 2006 FIBA World Cup. He won MVP in the 2006 competition.
His younger brother, Marc Gasol (37), also won silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics together with his older brother. He played for the Memphis Grizzlies and for many years as one of the top centers in the NBA.
★ Born on June 26, 1992 (age 30)
★ Height 216cm·117kg, Center
★ Minnesota Timberwolves (#27)
★ NBA 2016-2017 Season Second Team
2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021 Season Third Team
2017- 2018, 2018-2019, 2020-2021 Defensive Player of the Year Award
All-Star 3 times
★ 2022-2023 season average 14.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.4 block shots
★ French national team
2020 Tokyo Olympic Silver Medal
2014 2019 FIBA World Cup Bronze Medal
2022 EuroBasket Silver Medal
France, along with Spain, Italy and Greece, is also a country that is considered a basketball powerhouse in Europe. If there is a star representing France, there is San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker (40). He played for Spurs for 18 years and wore four championship rings. He was also the 2007 Finals MVP.
His number 9 is Spurs’ permanent number. Parker is also called a legend as he represents France. He led the team to victory in the 2013 EuroBasket, sweeping MVP and top scorer titles.
Among active NBA leaguers, Rudy Gobert is considered the best star in France. The 216 cm center is known for his solid play, standing under his goal as the nickname ‘Eiffel Tower’. He is one of only four players to have been named Defensive Player of the Year three or more times, along with Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo (four times) and Dwight Howard (three times).
Born in Saint-Quentin in northern France, Go Baer was a basketball player whose father was from Guadalupe, French. Like Mikanen introduced earlier, he has ‘basketball DNA’ and was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 27th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Showing a gradual improvement, he became a fearful defensive center, ranking first in block shots (2.6) in the 2016-2017 season. After winning the title with an average of 14.7 rebounds in the 2021-2022 season, he moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of this season.
With his big physique and speed, he is regarded as a center with excellent board control. However, it has a weakness that it does not respond well defensively when the opponent comes out with a fast small lineup. The 2nd round of the 2021 playoffs against the LA Clippers was such a stage. At the time, the Utah Jazz, which Gobert held on to, was tied to the Clippers in vain after finishing first in the regular league.
Gobert has been in the back of the net for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. The Timberwolves are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference and are in a fierce battle for a ticket to the playoffs.
★ Born on January 4, 2004 (19 years old)
★ Height 221cm · 104kg, Center
★ Metropolitans of
France ★ France National Team
2021 U-20 World Cup Silver Medal
So far, we have looked at the European stars who bring vitality to the NBA. It looks like the wave will be even stronger in the next season. Because the French ‘monster’ is waiting to appear.
Heading into the 2023 NBA Draft, that’s 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama. He is 224 cm tall and boasts tremendous physical condition, with a wingspan (length when his arms are spread out to the side) of 243 cm.
This amazing physique was inherited from his parents. My father, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was a 198cm tall long jumper. Wembanyama got the genes for both his height and his stamina from his father.
Her 190 cm tall mother also played basketball in France. It’s a really blessed gene. Currently, Wembanyama’s older sister Eve also plays for the French women’s national basketball team.
ESPN described Wenbanyama as “the talent of the century,” and the Guardian praised him as “a once-in-a-millennium genius.” Since LeBron James in the NBA, I wonder if there has been a player who has received such great attention even before his debut.
When you look at his play, it makes sense. The 224 cm tall player dribbles and shoots a 3-point shot just like a forward or guard. The scene where he shoots outside with a step back against his physique is jaw-dropping.
Wembanyama never loses speed and is good at ‘side defense’ to block the opponent’s dribble breakthrough. Of course, ‘vertical defense’ goes without saying. Take a block shot without a break and overwhelm your opponent.
Of course, there is an element of anxiety. The bigger the body, the higher the risk of injury. In particular, super-tall centers have often been vulnerable to injury.
Anyway, since he is such an outstanding talent, attention is focused on which team will take Wembanyama. The 2023 NBA Draft is drawing attention as a historic event in that sense.
“The goal is to have the strength of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the skills of Kevin Durant,” said Wembanyama. Following soccer’s Kylian Mbappe, France may soon have a world-class superstar in basketball.