Basketball in Spain. Famous names in Spanish Basketball are Marc and Pau Gasol; Other well known players are Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez.
Although the United States has previously stolen the limelight in Basketball, with a team packed full of NBA stars, European teams have certainly carved out their rightful place on the sporting landscape, with Spanish talent leading the way in sparking this mix up in the Basketball world. Winning the silver Olympic medal at the Los Angeles games in 1984, the Spanish basketball team has worked steadfastly since, and the sport has flourished, producing internationally renowned superstars to represent the Marca España. National Basketball competitions in Spain include the Liga ACB, which began in 1957 and is made up of 18 teams, with FC Barcelona Regal and Madrid having enjoyed the greatest success of all of these, and the yearly Copa Del Rey de Baloncesto.
Two of the biggest names in Spanish Basketball are perhaps Pau Gasol and his younger brother Marc; Pau became a powerful NBA forward and center, having joined the Junior Program in Barcelona at just 16. Impressively, in 2009, Pau was the first Spanish player, with the Lakers, to win the NBA finals. During the 2012-2013 Season, his brother Marc earned the title of ‘defensive player of the year’ for the NBA. Other well known players include Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez. These players amongst others were part of the 2006 victory at Japan’s World Basketball Championships, and were awarded the Prince of Asturias Sports Award as a result of their excellent play. Not only has the Spanish men’s team earned a multitude of medals at the Eurobasket (gold in 2009 and 2011) but from both the 2008 and the 2012 Olympics, the team took home the silver medal. Women’s basketball in Spain is equally very impressive; winning bronze at three Eurobasket tournaments (2001, 2003 and 2005), silver in 2007 and gold in 1993 and 2013, the team also earned bronze at the World Basketball Championships in 2010.
The success of the Spanish basketball team is sometimes linked to a generation inspired by the American ‘dream team’ of players, which included Michael Jordan and Larry Bird; indeed, a handful of Spain’s World Champions play in the NBA. Transferring from Spanish teams such as FC Barcelona to play in the NBA, where salaries are much higher, is not uncommon, but many of Spain’s biggest names in Basketball have instead opted to stay in Spain, where although play may be famously more conservative and perhaps less ‘spectacular’, the sport is picking up pace and Spanish teams are highly regarded on an international scale. The contrast between the careful tactical play and smooth teamwork characteristic of Spanish teams, and the ‘slam-dunk’ performances, packed full of high jumps and incredible physical talent associated with the NBA is often noted, but with the 17th FIBA World Cup for basketball being held in Spain in 2014, the sport is only set to inspire more young people, to steamroll in popularity.