By Andy Elrick
If you had scanned the tribunes at the Palazzetto di Sport on Sunday you might have noticed a tall, middle aged man, elbows on knees, following the action intently between conversations with dignitaries and fans.
He has the look, even the gait of someone who has played this game before and even if you aren’t a student of Italian basketball history you might suspect he’s important.
Fabrizio Della Fiori made 155 appearances for the Italian national team, scored 1499
points, captured a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics and once went an Olympic record 10 of 10 from the field in a game against Team USA.
|Della Fiori was a mainstay for the Italian national team during his career, scoring 1,499 points.|
Della Fiori is used to being noticed, but when he gets the chance to attend international basketball events these days, the reason why takes a little getting used to.
“He went to watch an Italian national team game just before EuroBasket,” recalls his daughter Isabella, an events manager at FIBA Europe who long ago became comfortable with being known as the daughter of one of Italy’s most famous basketball players.
“And someone said to him, ‘Oh you must be Isabella’s dad’.
“That made me really proud because my whole life, at least in the basketball world, I’ve been known as the daughter of Fabrizio Della Fiori and for once he was the father of Isabella, instead.”
The lives of both Della Fioris are steeped in basketball, though Isabelle says she never felt pressure from her dad to go into the family business.
“He asked me once when I was five if I wanted to play basketball and I said no,” Isabella says. “He never asked me again, not once.”
Despite a lack of interest in playing the game, Isa - as she’s known by friends and colleagues - was a regular at practices, enjoying the basketball and the attention.
“He would pick me up after school and I would go watch him practice and everyone would treat me like a princess,” she says.
She watched her father closely and gained an appreciation for the game he loved, and for the passion and excitement of international competition.
“She would see me packing and knew I was going away and then, when I got back, I would always have some exotic gift from whatever far away place I had been visiting,” says the man know throughout his career as “Ciccio”.
“I think that got her interested in travel and made her sort of a free spirit, not unlike me.”
Twenty years after Della Fiori ended his career, his daughter is traveling to some of those same far off places as a member of FIBA Europe’s events department, organizing the tournaments her father played in all those years ago.
“I always knew there were people working behind the scenes when I played in an event,” Fabrizio says.
“You could see them running around and stressed out. I think I always understood it was hard work but now, I know even more from talking to Isabella.”
These days, his daughter’s job is one of the ways Della Fiori retains his connection to the game.
“I’m really glad that she has found something she likes to do and that makes her happy,” says the former Cantu and Udine star.
“The fact that it involves basketball makes it even better,”
“Basketball was one of the best parts of my life and to hear her tell me that people ask about me and still remember me and what I did for the game is nice.”
For his daughter, working in the game that has been so much a part of her life is challenging and at the same time comforting.
“To this day, when I hear the sound of a basketball bouncing, it makes me feel at home,” she says.