We did it! After what seemed like the longest season of my life, we capped it off by winning the ‘ship!!
Unlike any other country in the world, the smart guys running the Swiss league decided that two months of playoffs in a 12-TEAM LEAGUE would be a good idea. Basically the schedule went like this, our last regular season game was March 19th, and the last possible game of the finals was May 31st!!! Are you serious??!! Over two months of PLAYOFFS!! I feel like Jim Mora; don’t worry, you’ll get it later. The point is that not even the NBA playoffs are two months long … so why in the hell is the Swiss league so long? According to league officials, they wanted each team in the series to have one home playoff game on a Saturday, to “make sure fans have a chance to support the home team!” Oh, OK, sure … That sounds like a great idea except for the fact that EVERY TEAM IN THE LEAGUE ONLY HAS ABOUT 200 FANS! Except our fans, the great supporters of Benetton Fribourg Olympic!
There was standing room only in our gym on Saturday, as we won the Swiss Championship over the Lugano Tigers, 73-59. I can honestly say I was really nervous before the game because, as I’ve said before, it’s always tough being the favorite and that target on your back seems to get bigger with each passing game.
It didn’t help that during warmups we had a 30 minute delay because a player from Lugano who is also one of the best players in Europe, Jo Jo Garcia … haven’t heard of him, yeah that’s because he isn’t that good, and I was being facetious! He really is terrible; to call him a poor man’s Bill Lambier would actually be a compliment, as he just plays like a poor man and broke one of the backboards before tipoff!
He and I actually almost got into a fight at the end of the game, but with two minutes left in the game, I had to remind him that in two minutes he could start his vacation … I guess he didn’t think that was too funny??!
Back to the game: We were in control for most of it; they tied the game at 19, but after that we never looked back. I played pretty well, had 12 boards, a couple of steals, you know, just another day at the office. I didn’t score particularly well, but I did all of the little things as usual to help my team win.
But all of the credit has to go to my teammates and coaching staff. They did a great job all year of making me feel comfortable and making me feel a part of the team. A big shout out to Dave Esterkamp, PPD, Harold, TQ, Doug, Bing, Oli, Malte, Senna, and Stefan! And to Natalie, Dave’s wife, for always cooking for me and making me feel at home! Nat, I’m coming to Columbus for that homemade salsa! I want to congratulate our team captain Harold Mrazek, who played his last game on Saturday and went out as a champion! This guy showed me all year what it means to be a true professional and I owe him a lot — Thanks, H! Also a big thanks to my coaches, Damien Leyrolles, and Mehdy Mary, who by the way is the worst translator ever, love ya Mehdy!
I’ve only been playing in Europe for two seasons and the fact that I won a championship in my 2nd year is really huge for me personally and my career. Now I can always say, “I’M A CHAMPION!” and nobody can take that from me!
I have been reflecting on the season since the game on Saturday, and it’s really funny because now that I’m looking back the season doesn’t seem as bad. And Switzerland isn’t so bad after all, I really have enjoyed my team and everybody associated with BFO! All of the fans have been so supportive, and really helped me out, especially the team’s biggest fan, Anne-Laure. I could have played in a couple of different countries this season and for a while I wished I had, but at the end of the day, you have to realize God puts you in places for different reasons, and I’m glad He put me here.
By the way, I want everyone to go pick up the new June issue of GQ magazine, and turn to page 104! You’re gonna get a great surprise!!!