I'm from Barcelona

And now, a look overseas, courtesy of Bricko. For some NBA, try my post on the Bulls and Celtics finding themselves.

There's a band composed of 29 musicians whose lead singer looks like a young Kurt Rambis minus the googles. They're « I'm from Barcelona » though they're actually from a small town in Sweden. Joan Mirò was from Barcelona, Scarlett Johansson kissed Penelope Cruz in Barcelona. Even Ricky Rubio is from Barcelona. His hometown stands 10 miles away from Plaça de Catalunya. By the time you read this, maybe more people will claim they're from Barcelona as the city continues to be synonymous with excellence. “I’m from Barcelona” as a post-modern “Ich bin ein Berliner” for sports. Today Barcelona's main artists do not paint cubic faces or melted watches, they play on a football pitch or a basketball court. For the first time in European sports history, one team could get a European crown in both football and basketball over the same season. Tomorrow night the football section will host Chelsea FC in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi finals. The basketball section? They will head to Berlin to play CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague Final Four on Friday.

We may have the same old VHS starring Marv Albert and Frank Layden. I remember them joking about how the Dream Teamers enjoyed the local specialities during the 1992 Olympics while showing footage of players entering a McDonald’s restaurant. Well maybe that’s the thing: Larry Bird peeing his large Sprite at the local McDo’s thus fertilizing the soil of Barcelona. Being responsible for an array of talent in the area 17 years later. But that of course would be an offense to people who know history and would come up with names like Johan Cruyff, Juan Antonio San Epifanio and Diego Maradona. Barcelona’s basketball team is no Dream Team. It took them all 5 games to overcome Spanish rivals Tau Vitoria in the Quarter Finals. They do not have this sense of perfection the football section has. Twice these last few weeks – Leo Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta put on a show in the UEFA Champions League – claiming 5-1 and 5-2 wins against Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyonnais. Those 2 nights, this team played close to perfection. It was like listening to Catalonia’s Isaac Albeniz.

For most experts FC Barcelona however plays the best basketball in Europe today. Like their pals from the football pitch, they emphasise ball movement and knocks down their outside shots. At 38%, Barça ranks third in Europe this season in 3 point percentage. With Italian sharpshooter Gianluca Basile netting over 50% of his long-range bombs. I remember running an interview with Basile back in the days and blaming my cell phone for bad connection. It took me 10 long minutes to understand he was a stammerer. And I found it so antinomic for a guy who can arm so quickly to face shot clock violation whenever he answers a question. While Basile is solid, Barcelona’s main asset is to be found on the other wing with Juan Carlos Navarro being back in business after an ambivalent year in Memphis (11 ppg though). “La Bomba” is arguably the most talented player heading to this Final Four with a skillset made of long with little rotation three points shots and floaters that he trademarked long before the TP9s and the CP3s. But Barcelona’s biggest strength might as well be its depth, especially down the lane. With 4 big men being starting 5 - worthy for any contender. All 4 were drafted. NBA geeks may be familiar with names like Fran Vasquez, Daniel Santiago, Ersan Ilyasova and David Andersen. The first two provide an intimidating force in the paint while the other two bring a deadly outside touch. A very deep team I said – strangely enough without any American contributor.

First hurdle on the road to the Euroleague title, a certain Ettore Messina. Who’s been heralded as the future first European head coach in the NBA forever. He did win the European trophy twice in 3 years with CSKA Moscow and forged a reputation as one of the biggest brains in the business. He did lose a couple of bets with his summer signings but can still rely on his vets including 2008 Euroleague MVP Ramunas Šiškauskas, who’s the closest thing to Brandon Roy this side of the ocean. Second hurdle will be the result of a Greek tragedy. Bitter enemies Panathinaikos and Olympiacos meet one more time and for once in a long long time, the latter have a shot at getting away with the win. Hence they even broke the record for the best winning percentage in the Greek League history (they only lost one game all season). Josh Childress’ fro might draw the attention though his… 9 ppg have been anything but spectacular – in the eye of the beholder (ask the defender on the poster).

FC Barcelona’s quest for a triumph in European sports starts tomorrow before 90,000 something Blaugrana fans against Chelsea FC, the 2008 UEFA Champions League runners up. The proud metropolis - home of close to 5,000,000 sports fans - is not even the capital of its own country yet it has a chance to become the center of Europe - at least on the sports map. And many could soon climb on the Barcelona bandwagon as the team looks like the last defense against British imperialism in European football and the Orthodox dominance in European basketball. With Leo Messi and Juan Carlos Navarro as the best ambassadors of a game where creativity wins games. So who's from Barcelona?

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At 4/27/2009 8:04 PM, Blogger vanjulio said...

I did Study Abroad there with Georgia Tech so now I say, "Vengo de Barcelona"

At 4/27/2009 9:32 PM, Blogger Brendan K said...

FD is part of the International Tweexcore Underground? I am flabbergasted.

At 4/27/2009 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's 5-1 Aggregate for Barcelona against Bayern Munich and 5-2 on the 2nd leg (6-3 Aggregate) against Olympique Lyonnais.

Otherwise, I hope Arsenal overcomes Man U in the other draw and then somehow manages to beat Barcelona in the Finals - despite Barcelona being completely loaded on all positions.

At 4/28/2009 12:15 AM, Blogger T. said...

I spent my Christmas holiday in Spain - and despite my wallet getting stolen within 12 hours of arrival in Barca - it was by far my favorite city in Spain.

I enjoyed going to the department stores and seeing all the Marc Gasol jerseys.

But I spent the most amount of time at Camp Nou in the museum looking at all the basketball (and handball!) stuff. Pau Gasol (and Marc and JC Navarro) looked really odd in those FC Barca colors (to me) whereas Messi and Ronaldinho looked natural.

wv: womits - Elmer Fudd's reaction to today's Hornets game.

At 4/28/2009 5:08 AM, Blogger Matías Castañon said...

Nice article about Barça and Euroleague's Final Four. I don't know if Barça makes the best basketball in Europe (there're great teams who make good basketball like TAU or Lietuvos Rytas), but the game who make Xavi Pascual's players is the best on this Final Four, with so much defensive teams (PAO, Olympiacos and CSKA).

At 4/28/2009 6:39 AM, Blogger milaz said...

Well, as much as "I am from Barcelona" in football, basketball is a whole other story. They might be in the final four but they are surely underdogs and stating that: "“La Bomba” is arguably the most talented player heading to this Final Four" is VERY debatable, to say the least.

I hope they win the Champions league, but I doubt they'll win the basketball crown. Tonight (Barcelona-Chelsea) and Friday (Barcelona-CSKA and Panathinaikos-Olympiakos)... beautiful distractions from the playoffs...

At 4/28/2009 11:24 AM, Blogger Ryne Nelson said...

Excellent piece as well as an interesting take on Chillz. I feel like the game is so different overseas, it's tough to compare how well players fare statistically to how well they'd compete with the best players in the world, in the United States. This is partially why I can't wait to see what Jennings does in the League next season. He's averaging what? Six per?

At 4/28/2009 1:17 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

I think that there is something to be said for the force that goes in to each Fran Vasquez dunk; I shudder to imagine him and Dwight Howard, let alone him and Marcin Gortat, naked greco-roman wrestling on the tarmac in Philly.

Navarro is not so fun to watch when you can just picture Nick Calathes having a meaningful conversation with Tom Gugliotta about Minnesota.

I think it's great that football is intertwined with just about everything in Spain; as they say, 'balompie es rey', they don't actually say that, but I thought everyone should know that "fútbol" is just a bastardization of the english word; the first british soccer team being Recreativo Huelva, who recently got taken to the cleaners by a Málaga team that lost to Barça by maybe 30,000 goals.

Ilyasova loves the bank three. What noone wants to talk about is Unicaja from Málaga and Jiri Welsch's undeniable swagger.

I'm From Barcelona aren't much better than the polyphonic spree unfortunately.

At 4/28/2009 5:29 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Boozer is opting out.

At 4/29/2009 12:53 PM, Blogger J Rock said...

Now that was the Ersan Ilyasova reference I've been waiting for. I hope Obama was paying attention.

At 8/13/2012 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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