BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Juan Carlos Navarro: "I am expecting more titles"|
Juan Carlos Navarro celebrates 15 years since his professional début on Friday and, unfortunately for defenders around Europe, 'la bomba' says his arsenal remains completely loaded.
The EuroBasket 2011 MVP told the official FC Barcelona website he remembers 23 November 1997 perfectly.
"It's a very special day in my professional life and I cannot forget it; it was a game at home against Granada, I came on in the last 10 minutes," Navarro says.
"I just got up from my seat on the bench and the fans started applauding without me having done anything yet.
"I only kept thinking I should not make any stupid mistakes, and fortunately things turned out right and I didn't mess up."
That nervous 17-year-old could not imagine that in the 15 years that followed he would gradually establish himself as one of the most important European players of our time.
Navarro debuted with the Spanish national team the following summer, at the 1998 European Championship for Junior Men.
He spent 14 seasons of his professional career at the club of his heart, in his native Barcelona, with the only exception being his year in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies.
In all these years, the shooting guard with the trademark 'bomba' shot has never had problems in scoring, but he is having a hard time when asked to name the most important team-mates he's had at the club.
"[There've been] many! It's difficult to name just a few, but just to mention some I would say Nacho Rodríguez, Pau Gasol, Gianluca Basile, Roger Grimau, Víctor Sada, Roberto Dueñas, Saras [Jasikevicius]...
"I'm leaving out many that were important in my career at Barça during all these years."
It's a bit easier for Navarro to highlight some of the many titles he's claimed with the club.
|Juan Carlos Navarro has spent 14 of his 15 professional seasons playing for his beloved Barcelona|
"The first Euroleague title in the history of the club (in 2003) is one of the best," he says.
"But the one in Paris in 2010 - I consider it more 'mine' because I was more important to the team then; they also voted me as the MVP.
"It was the culmination of many things: dedication, effort and sacrifice.
"The [Spanish ACB] league title that we won against Real Madrid last season was another special moment.
"But it's not only the titles that count; I also have great memories of other games not because we won something necessarily, but for what they meant at the time."
Navarro probably needs an extra room at home just to store his trophy collection.
A World Champion in 2006 and EuroBasket champion on two occasions (2009 and 2011), he has collected a total of 10 medals with Spain alone.
With Barcelona, he's won seven Spanish league titles, five domestic cup (Copa del Rey) titles, and one Korac Cup title to go with his two Euroleague trophies.
If one adds to that his numerous individual awards, it's probably easy to assume that, at the age of 32, he's not as motivated as he was on that day 15 years ago.
"I am expecting more titles," comes Navarro's reply.
"I still have a few years in my contract with the club and I would like us to follow the successful line of the last years, in which we have managed to win many trophies.
"You never get tired of winning.
"And when I retire, I would like to look back and see that I've helped this club become even bigger.
"I still have a lot left in the tank."