Tag Archive | "golden generation"

Golden Generation set for Last Hurrah in London Olympics


Luis Scola celebrates with the trophy after beating Brazil 80-75. (Credit Image: © Ryan Noble/ZUMA Press)

Argentina secured its place in the basketball tournament at next year’s Olympic Games in London by winning the FIBA Americas Championship for the second time in Mar del Plata, beating Brazil 80-75 in a tense final on Sunday.

The team, coached by Julio Lamas, had in fact achieved Olympic qualification two days earlier when they won by a hairs-breadth, 81-79 against Puerto Rico in the semi-final after comfortably coming through the qualifying rounds, winning 10 of their 11 games against Puerto Rico (twice), Uruguay (twice), Panamá (twice), Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Canada, succumbing to just a single defeat to fellow finalists Brazil.

The base for Argentina’s final victory was the 32 points scored by Houston Rockets centre, Luis Scola, who was the tournament’s MVP and top-scorer. Scola who only recovered from a debilitating knee injury in April said: “It was incredible because I didn’t know if I could make it to the games due to my injury and I finished MVP.

Joining the celebrations with the crowd after the victory was fellow NBA star and totem of the Argentine team for the past ten years, Manu Ginóbili of the San Antonio Spurs who proclaimed: “We had 9,000 desperate people shouting for us and we were there, celebrating after 45 days of hard work. We won a tournament at home after 10 years, it’s great.”

Manu Ginobili dribbles towards Canada's Jeffrey Ferguson and Argentina's Luis Scola during the game between against Canada. Argentina won the match 79-53. (Credit Image: © Ryan Noble/ZUMApress.com)

Argentina’s achievement is even more laudable given the lengths their federation had to go to get their top NBA players from the US available to play. With their clubs not prepared to meet the insurance costs, which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars per player due to an NBA lockout, the tab was picked up by the hardly-rich Argentine Basketball Federation and the players themselves.

The rise of the Argentine ‘Golden Generation’ to the pinnacle of world basketball can be traced back to when they won the FIBA Americas title for the first time in the Argentine city of Neuquén. They quickly followed that with a Silver Medal at the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, where they became the first team ever to beat the United States ‘Dream Team’.

Their peak achievement came at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where coached by Rubén Magnano they struck Gold. With a team containing the likes of Ginóbili, Scola, Fabricio Oberto, Andrés Nocioni and Carlos Delfino – all of whom would enjoy notable careers in America’s NBA League – they beat Italy in the final, with heavy favourites the United States ‘Dream Team’ having to settle for Bronze.

Fourth place in the 2006 World Championship and a Bronze Medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 maintained Argentina’s place at the pinnacle of the world game, and this latest success will see them playing at an unprecedented third successive Olympic Games next year.

According to Ginóbili, the secret of Argentine success over the past decade had been the close knit camaraderie of the squad: “We are united, a group of friends, we are all really happy about Luis Scola earning the MVP prize after such a tough recovery he had, or Nocioni playing with his ankle absolutely injured, and these are only a few examples we can name.”

A young fan wearing a Houston Rockets shirt during the FIBA Americas 2011 basketball match between Argentina and Venezuela. Argentina won the match 111-93. (Credit Image: © Ryan Noble/ZUMApress.com)

As London 2012 rapidly heaves into view there is no doubt that Argentina have the ability to achieve a podium finish. Whether the ageing bodies of the ‘Golden Generation’ can carry them through is another matter, but as Milwaukee Bucks guard, Delfino says: “We are getting old but we’ve got a big heart and guts. God willing, we will play a great tournament and get a new Gold.”

All Argentine sports fans will fervently hope so. As Ginóbili says: “Let the legend continue…”

All photos © Ryan Noble/ZUMApress.com

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