We’ll be running a poll on this question next week, but please feel free to put forth suggestions in the “comments” section below this post. A few suggested guidelines: Since the winning choice will be immortalized (well, as immortalized as things can get online) in illustrated form, BiE asks that you consider only guys easily caricatured or are at least easily recognizable by the uniform.
After making a few kneejerk-reaction choices, BiE also consulted with this site’s contributing writers and a pilgrim father of BallinEurope. Below runs the tentative list of candidates thus far.
Love him or hate him after nearly four years in office, one thing is for certain: Barack Obama is the first basketball president – a fact that could curry lots of favor with Generation X and Y voters in a celebrity-charged election.
Sure, Bill Clinton was lucky enough to enjoy his home-state University of Arkansas’ 1994 victory in the NCAA Tournament and play host to the Dream Team in ’92. Sure, guys like George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were often more erudite when discussing sports than, you know, politics (check out “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” for Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Tricky Dick, an interview which Thompson was told could only be about NFL football). And the Kennedys surely won popularity points for their picturesque family touch-football games.
However, no US president has leveraged sports fandom on an international scale like Obama. (Check out BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini’s piece on his pet project, tracking Obama’s basketball diplomacy moves.) And the president’s preference for basketball represents the rise of the NBA and to some extent NCAA hopes during David Stern’s reign as the big league’s commissioner.
(Is it any coincidence that Obama came to professional prominence in that hometown of the 1990s’ Incredibulls? BiE thinks not.)
Note: This piece was first published in February 2012.
Hosting dignitaries and politicos from Italy this week, U.S. president/basketball devotee Barack Obama recently gave an interview to the visiting media as well, naturally taking time to praise Italia’s representatives in the NBA. As self-proclaimed scholar of basketball diplomacy – perhaps the only one on the planet – Enrico Cellini has noticed that Obama’s effusive acclaim for Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli is in fact quite similar to the prez’s gushy quotes on Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur back in 2009…
In a rare interview between an American president and an Italian newspaper, Barack Obama went through a wide variety of topics ranging from the state of the current Euro Crisis, through the turmoil in Syria to the importance of Italian-Americans in US society: “Italy can be proud that its sons and daughters continue to make invaluable contributions to the success of the United States and to our bilateral partnership”.
With little basketball going on outside of the FIBA EuroBasket qualifiers – and the WNBA providing so few posterizations – BallinEurope’s informal “highlight clip of the week” competition wasn’t even close.
Check out Luigi Datome jamming one for Team Italy that got the home crowd to their feet and sent Turkey’s former Boston Celtic. Behind Datome’s 23 points, Italy ultimately won the game, 78-69, and stand at 3-0 in the Eurobasket 2013 qualifying round. No word on how Erden has been dealing with his nightmares.
Right, things will be tipping off shortly in London with eight teams remaining in bids for a podium spot. And with the votes in and brackets fashioned, let’s see what BallinEurope contributors (including David Hein, Enrico Cellini and Sam Chadwick) and readers find in their own crystal balls…
Gold medal: USA (with 86% of votes)
So probably the only surprise here is that it wasn’t unanimous. Dissenting votes were logged for Spain and Russia, though the latter may carry a bit of an asterisk. The sole voice liking the Reds to take it all was commentator El Diablo from Australia (!) who took his home side to win the gold, then backed down, explaining “I still reckon that Russia will beat the US, assuming Shevd doesn’t lose his shit again…”
In an Olympic field that appears to be the strongest ever on paper, could a flawed team like this one still grab the gold? (And if flawed teams are in the running for a podium spot, is Lithuania more enthused?)
A few lines from BallinEurope’s notebook and other stuff (like highlights) follow.
In clearing out the virtual desk of 2011-12 basketball season stuff, BallinEurope today presents this compilation of the year’s top Euro-centric buzzer-beaters. The requirements to make the list were two: the primary player in the buzzer-beater most be of European nationality or the shot must take place in a game featuring European teams; and the buzzer-beater must take place at the end of a quarter, i.e. no shot-clock buzzer-beaters considered.
Greater weight was given in consideration to the relative importance of the win earned with the highlight shot. Keeping one’s team alive is more important than YouTube glory, after all.
And on with the list. Firstly, honorable mentions go to:
• Travis Diener for Banco di Sardegna Sassari against Fabi Shoes Montegranaro on April 15. Sassari would go on to win in overtime, 79-77, and continue in a successful season which had them ultimately placing fourth in the Serie A. Unfortunately for the purposes of this post, not quite a buzzer-beater.
What’s that? You haven’t been watching the quarterfinal round of the Italian League’s playoffs? No problem: BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini has – and he posts today about just what you’ve been missing, namely two cliffhanging, nail-biting finishes that finished off Virtus Bologna. (Ironically and mournfully, BiE notes Bologna’s elimination as dated the same as Kobe Bryant’s 2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers.) Cellini promises that the videos are the centerpiece and so those looking for classic buzzer-beaters need search no further than below the break.
Did Danilo Gallinari really flop in the final minute of his Denver Nuggets’ recent loss to the Lakers while Ramon Sessions hit a key three? Or did Pau Gasol foul Gallinari on the pick? If the latter is true, why was there no call? After words to the American media to the effect of “It was a tough pick. You’ve got to expect that in the playoffs … I’ve got to be ready and play defense,” he words were a bit choicer in Italian. Enrico Cellini tells BallinEurope about The Rooster speaking out on the Lakers, the referees and especially Steve Kerr.
Said Gallinari, in the print version of Italy-based Gazzetta dello Sport: “[The referees] would certainly have called that type of pick on our big guys. It was a crystal clear foul but, as everybody knows, they call fewer fouls for you when you play against the Lakers.”
Gallinari went on to address TNT commentator Steve Kerr, who argued on-air that the play was a Euro-style flop, with “I guess Kerr hasn’t played basketball for too long.”
BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, today gives us a few choice quotes from Italy’s man on the New Orleans Hornets, Marco Bellinelli. In an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport weekly, Bellini decries the relative drawing power of his NBA compatriots Danilo Gallinari and Andrea Bargnani as opposed to himself; plus, there’s a further comment that a certain Chicago Bull might not dig too much…
In an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport weekly magazine Sportweek, New Orleans Hornets guard Marco Belinelli went through his supposed inferiority complex toward the other two Italian kids in the NBA, Bargnani and Gallinari.
In slightly contradictory fashion, Belinelli says, “I never felt I’m competing with them. Sometimes people talk more about someone else, it happens. Sure, I’m not pleased that Italian journalists and fans keep on considering Il Mago and Il Gallo more important [than me]. I can’t do anything about it but I feel a little bad.
“So why do the other two guys have more appeal? Just because they score more points or because they sell themselves better?” [It’s gotta be the market, Marco. Or the lack of flashy nickname... – Ed.]
Belinelli argued that status as high NBA draft picks paved Bargnani and Gallinari’s ways to smooth entrances and then reckons, “In the past, I’ve been penalized for being considered just a shooter, but I’ve showed I can do much more. I’m not a Kyle Korver type of guy, someone who shoots and that’s it: I can pass, do pick-and-rolls, drive the lane.”
As the Gazzetta dello Sport journalist desperately tried to portray him as a superhero with icebreaking questions on the order of “How could you turn from zero to hero?” and “Do you feel like a monster?”, Belinelli finally surrendered: “Well if it means that I never surrender and that I will fight to become the best player possible, then yes, I am a monster.”