EuroBasket In The Country Of Basketball

14 October 2011
Pick’n Roll
PickN Roll - Olafur Rafnsson


Dear Basketball Friends,

Now that EuroBasket 2011 is history, it is time for me to look back at this amazing tournament and share my thoughts on our flagship event with you.

I would like to take the opportunity to again congratulate the winners, Spain, for a rare repetition of a EuroBasket gold medal.

While it is true that they probably had the most talented roster in what legendary Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic called the best EuroBasket ever, being talented means nothing if you cannot put the pieces together.

Everybody was reminded of this fact, when Spain lost to Turkey in the First Round where they went ice-cold in the last quarter, scoring only two points.

4. Pau Gasol (Spain), 7. Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain)
The EuroBasket 2009 MVP, Pau Gasol, congratulates the 2011 MVP, Juan Carlos Navarro with the gold medals hanging around their neck. Spain were the worthy EuroBasket champions

But Coach Sergio Scariolo once again knew which parts of the machine to put in motion at which time and had his team firing on all cylinders when it counted.

If anybody needed another proof of how good Spain are, just look at the player who walked away with the EuroBasket MVP award.

2009 MVP Pau Gasol played another superb tournament and was logically voted into the All-Tournament Team, but there was one of his teammates who clearly outshone him and who was frenetically celebrated with M-V-P, M-V-P chants throughout the final stages of the EuroBasket in Kaunas: Juan Carlos Navarro.

As the President of FIBA Europe, it makes me especially proud to have a player win this award, who plays in his native Spain and whom European fans can watch live and on TV week-in, week out.

The main focus is always with the medal winning teams and I clearly enjoyed watching Spain, a fantastic French team, driven by an amazing Tony Parker, and Russia, who re-appeared on the podium after a four-year absence.

But I also want to point out some teams that you might not have expected so high in the final rankings.

FYR of Macedonia punching their ticket to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament was a first-in-a-lifetime achievement for a brave and fearless team and the celebrations the team received upon their arrival in Skopje showed how much joy this group of players brought to their people in the arena and back home.

But there were more: Finland needed the Additional Qualifying Round to make it to the EuroBasket and then refused to go away and extended their stay in Lithuania to the Second Round in Vilnius.

Georgia also made their way to Vilnius and established themselves on the top-level as a team that came straight out of Division B.

8. Vojdan Stojanovski (F.Y.R. of Macedonia)
Vojdan Stojanovski celebrating F.Y.R. of Macedonia's win over Lithuania, which broke the hearts of the proud hosts but was a testament to just how competitive the EuroBasket is 

I believe that the legacy that the participation in EuroBasket 2011 will leave in Georgia will be fantastic. The country really appreciates our sport and is clearly on its way to establish itself as a regular contender, also in our club competitions.

Talking about legacy brings me to the host country. The Quarter-Final loss to FYR of Macedonia broke the heart of three million Lithuanians but the love for the sport in the country is too big to let this harm the success of the EuroBasket.

The spectacular Kauno Arena, which in my opinion was the ideal stage for such an important event, was still covered in green and the fans kept not only attending the games but also celebrating their team and the sport.

Throughout the tournament I always had the impression that the whole country embraced the EuroBasket, the teams and the many fans that came to support their team in the beautiful arenas.

The country of basketball surpassed expectations and a small country is now well-known throughout our continent, and also in the world, for its hospitality and unparalleled love for the game.

Lithuania could not have been a better host and set a high standard for all future EuroBaskets.

As the President I was also really proud of the FIBA Europe staff that, together with the LOC worked so hard to make sure EuroBasket 2011 was going to be an unforgettable experience for everyone.

Nevertheless, FIBA Europe, together with the future LOCs will work tirelessly to make the coming tournaments even better.

I wish all of you a good club season. Enjoy the excitement of following your team in the various national and European competitions and see you soon!

Best regards,
Olafur Rafnsson
FIBA Europe President




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