|21 April 2012|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Carlos Jimenez's finest hour, Spain's victory over Greece in the 2006 World Championship Final|
By Jeff Taylor
One of Spain's great servants, Asefa Estudiantes forward Carlos Jimenez, has decided to bring the curtain down on a terrific career.
The 36-year-old, who has played 13 seasons for Estudiantes and five at Unicaja Malaga, will make his last appearance on 6 May against UCAM Murcia in the Liga Endesa (ACB).
When he walks off the court that day, he will have played in 630 ACB games - the fifth most in the history of the competition.
Of course anyone that knows about Jimenez understands that he is also defined by his association with Spain's national team.
Half a lifetime ago, when he was only 18, the 2.04m forward played for Spain at the 1994 European Championship for Junior Men and claimed a bronze medal.
He then began to establish himself as a professional at Estudiantes, which included Korac Cup campaigns in 1995 and '96.
Then Jimenez got a taste of the EuroLeague in 1997 and '98.
He became a coach's dream.
Jimenez was a hard worker on both ends of the floor.
He was consistent and productive.
If there was a loose ball on the floor, Jimenez would chase it down.
Often against big players, Jimenez would win battles for rebounds.
Jimenez spent all of his summers with Spain's national teams.
He competed at the 1995 World Championship for Junior Men, winning bronze.
In 1997, he played at the World Championship for Men '22 and Under' while in 1998, Jimenez graduated to the senior team at the World Championship in Athens, where the Spaniards finished seventh.
His first European Championship came the following year in France, and he captured a silver medal.
That ushered in an era of success for Spain that hasn't come to an end.
Jimenez, who eventually became captain of the national team, followed his Olympic debut in Sydney by helping Spain win EuroBasket bronze in 2001 (Istanbul) and silver in 2003 (Sweden), gold at the World Championship in 2006 (Japan) and silver at EuroBasket 2007 (Spain).
All the way, Jimenez did what needed to be done for Spain to win.
If they needed rebounds, he grabbed them.
|Jimenez under the watchful eye of Lebron James during his last game with the Spanish national team, the 2008 Olympic Games final|
If they needed points, he scored them.
If they needed physical defense, he provided it.
When Pau Gasol went down with an injury that knocked him out of the world title game against Greece six years ago, Jimenez pulled down a game-high 11 boards.
If hard words had to be said in the changing room to his teammates, he said them.
Jimenez led by example, and Spain followed him.
After a dramatic 2008 Olympic Final in Beijing against the United States, which Spain lost 118-107, captain Jimenez spoke to his teammates in the locker room one last time.
He had poured in 12 points in 25 hard-fought minutes.
Jimenez talked to Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio, Felipe Reyes, Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, Alex Mumbru, Bernie Rodriguez and Raul Lopez, and said he'd decided to stop with the national side.
"It was the most emotional moment when he (Jimenez) told us that he was retiring from the national team because he was the most capped player and for us, he has been very important," point guard Jose Calderon said.
"He told us he was really proud of us, all the youngsters.
"He was the one that was the key to this team having great camaraderie."
Now Jimenez, who returned to Estudiantes this season from Unicaja, has elected to call it a day as a professional player.
He broke the news to Spanish daily El Mundo this week.
"I will not continue," he said.
"They are my last games and I want to have as best memory as possible."
Estudiantes are in a dogfight, attempting to avoid the drop into the LEB, Spain's second division.
With five games remaining, Estu are 9-20 and just one game adrift of Blusens Monbus - a team they host on Wednesday, right after the Madrid derby with Real on Saturday.
"I hope I can leave with a nice sporting memory and help Estudiantes avoid relegation," Jimenez said.
"If not, I hope I can take with me the fact that I have enjoyed each day, each game and what I've done. I hope we get good results."
Jimenez has been in the game for a long time, so what happens over the next few weeks in the Liga Endesa will not define him as a player.
"What I have done in my sporting career has been to give the maximum each day," he said, "and it's not fair to value things based solely on results although in the end, that is what comes first."