BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|The return of Rudy Fernandez to European basketball is one of the ingredients of Real Madrid's current success|
The events that took place during the last weekend of 2013 will go down to the history books of Spanish basketball and its most storied club, Real Madrid.
On Friday night, Pablo Laso's team travelled to Badalona and by prevailing 72-68 in a hard-fought Liga Endesa clash against FIATC Joventut, broke a record that was established back in 1960/61.
The Real Madrid of that era, coached by FIBA Hall of Fame member Pedro Ferrándiz, had started off the season on a 23-game winning streak across all competitions.
Coach Laso and his men meanwhile claimed their 24th consecutive win in Badalona.
The achievement monopolised headlines in Spain throughout the only weekend of the year that there is no football on TV, and served as the perfect appetizer to one of the main courses of the season, the world-famous clásico, on Sunday night.
Not content with breaking a record that lasted 53 years, Real went on to dominate their arch-rivals, FC Barcelona, during 40 minutes and claim a 98-84 triumph behind a game-high 18 points from Rudy Fernandez and a 15-point, six-assist display by Sergio Rodriguez.
Real's 98 points was the highest offensive output in a clásico in the ACB Regular Season since 1996/97 and the fifth-highest of all time from the Madrid powerhouse.
Moments after his team had registered in such triumphant fashion their 13th win in a row in the Liga Endesa (10 more wins came in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and two in the Supercup at the start of the season), coach Laso remained as humble as always.
"I don't consider us superior neither to FC Barcelona or to any other team," the Real Madrid coach said.
"I am very happy for achieving an incredible record of 25 straight wins that will go in history, it is impressive.
"But I am the coach of a team which knows that the competition does not end just because you achieved this record.
"We need to maintain the same hunger to keep on growing.
"I don't think we are going to stay unbeaten for the entire season but don't let anyone believe that this record was a fluke, it has been the fruit of hard work."
The legendary Ferrándiz himself, now in his mid-eighties, is one of the biggest fans of this Real Madrid side, despite the fact his team is no longer the holder of the record.
"I am excited about this Madrid team," Ferrándiz told daily El País.
"I was bored by the style of play of the team for almost 20 years but finally, a group that breaks moulds has appeared on the scene.
"I see reflected in them the same philosophy and attitude that 50 years ago cemented the glory and reputation of this club."
When Laso assumed the reins in the off-season of 2011, a vocal sector of supporters was sceptical about the appointment, demanding a more established coach at the helm.
One Liga Endesa title later, Laso, who takes time every summer to teach at FIBA Europe's FECC programme, and the fast-paced, spectacular style of play he has imposed on Real Madrid has conquered not only every single fan of 'los blancos', but most basketball fans around Europe.
"I see the fans experiencing the games at the edge of the their seats," Ferrándiz said.
"It's the same love-at-first-sight syndrome that was produced with our team in the sixties.
"Our Madrid side marked a radical change from the established structures and philosophy of European basketball, and now this team is making a second revolution.
"It is the second breakaway from the establishment, which has almost installed chess-like tactics in basketball.
"The [defensive] stinginess and the eternal possessions are boring people to death.
"But now, this team has made a jump from prehistory to modernity."