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?