|28 June 2012|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Having already won gold at the World Championship and silver at the Olympics, Garbajosa helped Spain capture that elusive EuroBasket gold in 2009 |
Jorge Garbajosa lived and breathed every second of his time with Spain's national teams like his very existence depended on it.
There was no greater honour for him than to wear the Spanish shirt every summer, and to meet up with his close pals he'd known since his teenage years.
In 1997, Garbajosa played for Spain at the World Championship for Men '22 and Under' and the following year, he featured at the European Championship for Men '22 and Under'.
Garbajosa, who announced his retirement as a player on Thursday, had his most famous moments with the senior team.
He played at five EuroBaskets, three Olympic Games and three World Championships.
In the Final of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Garbajosa underlined his importance to Spain with Pau Gasol having been lost to injury in their Semi-Final victory over Argentina.
Garbajosa came to the fore and scored a game-high 20 points while also corralling 10 rebounds in leading the team to a gold-medal game triumph over Greece.
A LEADER BEYOND NUMBERS
What made the 2.07m forward special were not the statistics, though, but the intangibles.
He had a knack for making an important pass, hitting a crucial shot or coming up with a defensive play that shifted the momentum to Spain.
What most endeared Garbajosa to Spain, though, was his devotion to Spain's national team in 2007.
While suiting up for the Toronto Raptors in March of the 2006-07 campaign, Garbajosa went down with a serious left ankle injury that required surgery and ended his season.
He remained 100% committed to making it back on the court in time to play for his country at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, despite Toronto advising him not to play.
Garbajosa refused to withdraw from consideration and decided he would spend the summer with the national side no matter what, even if it meanT not playing.
He wanted Spain to have one of its senior presences in the changing room and during games.
With the help of the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB), Garbajosa obtained special insurance that allowed him to play at the EuroBasket and he gave his country an emotional lift by doing so.
|The Madrid-born forward was already 29 when he joined the Toronto Raptors. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game but suffered an injury in March that effectively ended his NBA career|
They finished with a silver medal.
Garbajosa wasn't the same player after the ankle injury, yet remained effective.
He contributed as Spain reached the Final of the 2008 Olympics and he also helped bring the country its first gold medal at a EuroBasket the following year in Poland.
The 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey was his last time in Spain's national team.
STAYING LINKED TO BASKETBALL
Now, after a difficult season at Unicaja Malaga and at the age of 34, Garbajosa has decided to hang up his sneakers.
But he remains devoted to Spain and basketball.
Garbajosa is to work with the FEB and specifically help the national team, and the federation to get ready for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
A statement from FEB announced: "Former Spain international Jorge Garbajosa has decided to put an end to his long and successful career as a player and will join the FEB, where he will do work related to the national team as well as the promotion of the FIBA World Championship in 2014."
Garbajosa has spoken about his decision to quit playing.
"The decision to retire is hard but, in my case, the possibility of being involved with the FEB and the national team has made it very sweet," he said.
"I want to thank all my clubs, executives, coaches, team-mates, rivals, referees, sponsors, media and fans for what we have shared throughout this time.
"All of them have made me feel privileged to do what I love most, to be a basketball player.
"I always said that my team was Spain and to continue to be a part of it is something marvelous. I have always felt at home in the FEB.
Jose Luis Saez, the FEB president, said: "Jorge is part of the living history of Spanish basketball so it makes us proud that we can count on him.
"I am certain that the work he will do for the FEB will be as important or even more to what he has done on the court."