We are recalling all foreign players that have ever played in the League, telling about foreign championships and National teams of different countries in World basketball map project. Today we’re going to talk about basketball in Spain.
The first Spaniards in the history of VTB League are Carlos Cabezas and Raul Lopez. After victorious for Spain Eurobasket 2009 both players signed with Khimki and spent 8 games in VTB United League in 2009/10 season. Cabezas came back to the Spanish championship after it and Lopez stayed in Russia and helped Khimki win VTB League in 2011.
The only Spaniard that has played in VTB League for two different teams is Victor Claver. In 2014/15 season forward wore Khimki jersey and in 2015/16 season he was Lokomotiv-Kuban player.
The leader in seasons spent (3) and games played (96) among Spanish players is Joaquin Colom who has played for UNICS since 2015 till 2018. In Kazan guard won silver medals in 2016, best sixth player (2016), and participated in VTB United League All-Star Game (2018).
The most successful and famous Spanish player is Sergio Rodriguez, he has been CSKA player since 2017 till 2019. The guard became 2-time VTB United League champion, 2-time League’s All-Star and Finals MVP in 2018.
Basketball in Spain
League: Liga ACB (Liga Endesa)
Founded: in 1983
Number of teams: 18
League’s web-site: http://www.acb.com/
There are more than 3500 basketball clubs and 385 thousand players registered in Spain, and basketball system is divided into 6 levels. The highest – ACB Liga has 18 teams.
Throughout 37-year Liga ACB history 49 teams have played there, only 5 of them participated in all seasons: Barcelona, Real, Basconia, Joventut and Estudiantes. The most titled teams are Barcelona (15) and Real (13).
In 2019/20 season 11 Spanish teams participated in European tournaments: Barcelona, Real, Valencia and Basconia in Euroleague; Unicaja, Joventut and Andorra in Eurocup; Zaragoza, Tenerife, San Pablo Burgos and Manresa in Champions League.
Clubs that participate in Liga ACB have to have at least 2 million dollars season budget and over 5000 people arena capacity. Moreover, 7 teams of the latest season played at arenas with more than 10000 people capacity: Unicaja, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Joventut, Estudiantes, Real and Basconia.
After each Spanish League season regular season MVP, play-off MVP and Rookie of the year awards are given, and furthermore symbolic starting five and symbolic rookie starting five is composed. Among awards owners there are some ex and acting VTB League players: in 2018/19 season ex-Zenit’s guard Nicolas Laprovittola was season’s MVP, and since 2010 till 2012 the best rookies have been Richard Hendrix (ex-Lokomotiv-Kuban player), Gustavo Ayon (ex-Zenit player) and Micah Downs (ex-Avtodor player).
Moreover, there were plenty of Russian players in Spanish championship. Among them – Andrei Fetisov (Valladolid, 1993-96; Barcelona, 1996), Sergey Babkov (Unicaja, 1994-99; Joventut, 1999-00), Mikhail Mikhailov (Estudiantes, 1994-96; Real 1996-98, 1999-00; Betis, 2003-04), Valery Tikhonenko (Unicaja, 1991-92), Yaroslav Korolev (Granada, 2010-11; Guipuzcoa, 2011-12, Navarra, 2016) and Sergey Bazarevich (Caseres, 1995).
Spanish teams have played in Euroleague finals more than others – 29 times. Real has 18 finals (10 wins), Barcelona has 7 finals (2 wins), Joventut (1 win) and Basconia (0 wins) have 2 final participations.
Spain National team
FIBA rank: 2
FIBA members: since 1934
Achievements: 2-time World Cup champions (2006, 2019), 3-time Eurobasket champions (2009, 2011, 2015), 3-time Olympic Games silver medalists (1984, 2008, 2012)
Spain became FIBA member in 1934, on April 15, 1935 they held their first official game (win over Portugal – 33:12), and in May participated in the first Eurobasket and won silver medals.
La Roja main success occured in 21st century. In 2001 (bronze) and 2003 (silver) Spaniards won Eurobasket medals, and in 2006 took first international gold medals on World Cup. On its path to title they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina (Serbia and Montenegro) (87:75), Lithuania (89:67), Argentina (75:74) and Greece (70:47).
Since 2007 till 2017 Spaniards regularly took Eurobasket and Olympic Games medals, became best European team 3 times and in 2019 managed to take their second World Cup in history.
Four Spanish National team players won at least 10 medals on different FIBA tournaments: Pau Gasol (11), Felipe Reyes (10), Rudy Fernandez (10) and Juan Carlos Navarro (10).
Besides, Spanish players became World Cup MVP two times, 7 times they won Eurobasket MVP, four times became Eurobasket top scorers and 24 times were included in tournament symbolic starting five.
Last few years Spain National team is ranked 2nd in FIBA world rating, losing first spot to USA.
Most famous Spanish players in history
Pau Gasol. 2001 NBA Draft 3rd pick, 2-time NBA champion, 6-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the year in 2001/02 season. In National team Pau Gasol became World Cup champion (2006) and 3-time Eurobasket champion (2009, 2011, 2015). In 2006 Gasol became World Cup MVP. In 2009 and 2015 he was Eurobasket MVP, and in 2003, 2009 and 2015 became tournament’s top scorer.
Marc Gasol. NBA champion, 3-time NBA All-Star, Defensive player of the year in 2012/13 season, Spain National team leader in career points (3599). In National team Marc Gasol became 2-time World Cup champion (2006, 2019) and 2-time Eurobasket champion (2009, 2011). Moreover, Gasol junior has Spain championship ring (2004) and 2008 Spanish League MVP.
Ricky Rubio. 2009 NBA draft 5th pick, Eurocup champion (2008), Euroleague champion (2010) and Spain champion (2011). Together with Spain National team Rubio won 2019 World Cup and 2 Eurobaskets (2009, 2011). In 2019 the guard became the second Spanish player to get World Cup MVP award.
Juan Carlos Navarro. 2-time Euroleague champion, Euroleague regular season MVP (2009), Euroleague Final Four MVP (2010) and 8-time Spain Champion. Juan Carlos Navarro, his jersey (#11) is retired in Barcelona, he is Euroleague leader in 3-pointers made (623) and Spain National team leader in games played (253). As a National team player the guard won World Cup (2006) and Eurobasket 2 times (2009, 2011). In 2011 Navarro became Eurobasket MVP.
Juan Antonio San Epifanio Ruiz. Forward who spent his entire professional career in Barcelona (1977-1995), 7-time Spain champion, 10-time Spain Cup winner, and in 1984 he became Euroleague finals top scorer and won Olympic Games silver medals as National team player. In 1991 Epi was included in top-50 greatest FIBA players list, in 2008 was included in top-50 players contributed the most in Euroleague development list, and in 2016 became FIBA Hall of famer.
Worth mentioning: Nikola Mirotic, Fernando Martin Espina, Felipe Reyes, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez