They are not all who are, but in the ceremony of the first promotion of the Hall of Fame of Spanish basketball that has been held this afternoon in Seville, they were all who were. Pioneers, benchmarks, examples of talent and individual and collective effort that for generations have contributed to making the sport of the basket great. Living figures, such as Juan Antonio Corbalán, Juan Antonio San Epifanio, Epi, Juan Carlos Navarro, Amaya Valdemoro, Arvidas Sabonis or the members of the 1993 senior team, the former getting a gold medal; and others who remain in the memory turned into legends, such as Fernando Martín, the coach Antonio Díaz-Miguel or the commentator Andrés Montes, have been recognized in an initiative promoted by the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) and the As Journal.
The Cartuja Stadium, the recent venue for the European Football Championship, has welcomed – a year late, like everything that has been conditioned by the pandemic – to the members of the 2019 class. The counselor did so of Education and Sports of the Junta de Andalucía and former coach and national basketball coach, Javier Imbroda. “I was born with a poster of the Spain of the generation of 73 directed by Díaz-Miguel. You have always been a benchmark ”, he assured with emotion. This recognition of teachers has been a constant in all the winners, in one example the importance of the communicating vessels between past and future necessary for the evolution of any sport.
Jorge Garbajosa, president of the FEB, has highlighted the importance of an event that is the first stone of the birth of the Hall of Fame with the presence of the protagonists who have cemented Spanish basketball with their deeds. An idea that Vicente Jiménez, director of the AS newspaper, who has highlighted that this hall of fame does not reward “a season, but the construction” of this sport in Spain.
Antonio Díaz-Miguel has been recognized in memoriam in his role as a coach. Absolute national coach for almost 27 years, he infected the style of American basketball – especially university basketball – in a handful of generations to which he inoculated basketball maturity and made them believe that they could dispute the world basketball scepter dominated by Americans, Russians and Yugoslavs. The historic silver of Los Angeles 84 confirmed his convictions and finished consecrating two of his pupils who have also entered the Hall of Fame: Epi and Corbalán. “To speak of this recognition is to speak of a legacy,” said the former base of Real Madrid and the Spanish team, to whom the president of the Superior Sports Council, José Manuel Franco, presented the award.
“Getting the silver medal in Los Angeles changed the course of basketball in Spain,” acknowledged Epi, who received his Golden Ball and the insignia in the hands of the Executive President of PRISA Media, Carlos Núñez. The forward was for more than 20 years the player with the most caps until he was surpassed by Navarro, the conductor of the Juniors of Gold led by Pau Gasol. “I have received many awards, but this is definitely something special. Being with this group of legends who have done so much for basketball means a lot to me, ”Navarro said.
Navarro is a benchmark for new generations of players, as is Amaya Valdemoro, the second player with the most appearances for the senior team, after Laia Palau. She won gold at the 2013 European championship, just 20 years after the women’s team led the way at the Eurobasket in Perugia. “He had no female references, only male, except for the generation of ’93 which is the one that taught us what it was to win,” Valdemoro pointed out. All the members of that team, except Pilar Valero, who was unable to attend, have been present in Seville to commemorate a historical milestone, as recognized by its captain, Carolina Mujica: “We were not a legendary team, we were simply the first basketball team to win a gold medal in Spanish basketball ”.
The first to open the way
Valdemoro and the 93 champions have been a stimulus at a time where successes are viral and become close and global. The 93 players led the way in every way. When Maribel Lorenzo, with her 1’85 height, began to play in her native Vigo in the 70s or when María Planas sat down to direct a bench in that same decade or to direct the women’s team, the only woman to do so, among 1978 and 1985, there was hardly any echo in the media. Both carved their own path and that is why they occupy a position in the first promotion of the Spanish Basketball Hall of Fame. The first in memorian -she passed away at 34 while training with some friends-. “If everything I have done has been a grain of sand for women’s basketball, I am satisfied,” said Planas, who received the biggest ovation of the night with the entire audience standing.
Basketball, like all sports, thrives on epics and legends. The particular hall of fame of Spanish basketball has recognized the Lithuanian Arvidas Sabonis in his category of international player and the late Fernando Martín, the first to step on an NBA parquet. His award was presented by Vicente Jiménez, director of Diario As, to his brother and president of the ACB, Antonio Martín.
Martín and Sabonis wore the Portland Trail Blazers jersey and in Spain we were able to enjoy Martín’s American adventure in that team thanks to the comments of Ramón Trecet through his program Close to the Stars. Trecet is another of the first generation members of the FEB hall of fame who has been recognized as a contributor.
If Trecet discovered the NBA to the Spanish, Andrés Montes narrated his games with a particular and inimitable style that has earned him recognition in memoriam as a journalist. Juan Cantón, General Director of Press at PRISA Media, has given him the Golden Ball to his sons Nelson and Orson. Others who have entered the Olympus of Spanish basketball have been Anselmo López (in memory), promoter of the minibasket in Spain; Emiliano Rodríguez, the first modern national basketball player and member of the mythical generation of ’73; the versatile referee Miguel Ángel Betancor; Pedro Ferrándiz, the most successful Spanish coach and founder of the International Center for Basketball Documentation and Research, current headquarters of the FEB Museum in Alcobendas, a city – where Amaya Valdemoro was born – that has also been recognized with an extraordinary award.
None of this would have been possible if 100 years ago the Esportiu Laietà Club had not founded the first basketball team in Spain or played the first documented match between two clubs, in December 1922. A century later, its sporting activity has diversified although maintains 13 teams and three schools. That historic dedication has earned him recognition as a contribution.
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