Almost almost a ‘Classic’. The United States-Spain, which will be played at dawn on Monday (Spanish time), will be the seventh match between the two teams before the Olympic Games. Not all of them can be considered ‘official’, for one reason or another, but they are part of a story that will continue in Las Vegas.
1960, Lugano (59-91) To complete the Olympic budget
After qualifying in a brilliant and unexpected way for the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, the National Team stayed for a few days in Bologna – where it had played the pre-Olympic tournament – and accepted the American proposal to move to Lugano (Switzerland), where the national team was concentrated. USA, to play a friendly preparation. He ended up with an unsurprising defeat against a top-level rival with big stars like Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Bellamy. The result was 59-91, with Alfonso Martínez (18), Emiliano (16) and Buscató (16) as the top Spanish scorers. Weeks later, the United States won the gold medal in Rome, clearly winning the 8 games they played. Spain finished in 14th position, with 2 victories – over Uruguay and Japan – and 5 defeats. The dollars charged by the FEB for playing this match completed the federal budget to go to Rome, which meant Spain’s first participation in an Olympic tournament.
2000, Saitama (66-95) A foreboding premiere
In the summer of 2000, on the way to the Sydney Olympic Games, Spain was one of the teams chosen to participate in Japan in the so-called Super Dream Games, the last stop in preparation for the Olympic event. Spain also received the honor of opening the tournament against the United States team, the ‘fourth version’ of the Dream Team, which it more or less tutored in the first half. But after the break, a 0-18 run broke the match and the National Team ended up yielding by a clear 66-95. Herreros (14) and Alfonso Reyes (13) were the top scorers for Spain, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Allan Houston and Gary Payton (all with 10 points), the Americans. In any case, it was a match for history … and foreboding. Because it was the match that premiered a new installation: the fantastic Saitama pavilion, in which six years later Spain would be proclaimed world champion, writing one of the most brilliant pages in our history.
2012, Barcelona (78-100) The 200 wound by Juan Carlos Navarro
Before going to London, more than 16,000 spectators at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona vibrated with an extraordinary duel that was also Juan Carlos Navarro’s 200th international appearance. A whole party and a spectacular match, which ended with a new victory for the United States with an outstanding Carmelo Anthony (27 points, 5 of 8 triples) and Pau Gasol (19) and Serge Ibaka (16) as Spanish stilettos, with 8 Calderón assists. Scariolo could not count on neither Marc Gasol nor Sergio Rodríguez due to physical problems, which reduced the Spanish chances. Weeks later, Spain and the United States met again in the Olympic final: they starred in a great game, in which the National Team fought for gold until practically the last minute in one of the most spectacular duels in history between both teams.
And 3 more, not ‘official’
To these three games, let’s say official, we must add another three that could not be classified as such.
The first two, in 1972, in two tournaments played weeks before the Games in Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. In the first of them the result was 82-100, and in the second, 97-80. But the United States went to those games not with its official Olympic team but with a team of young hopefuls, which incidentally included its current coach, Gregg Popovich.
Once in Munich, Spain had to face the United States in the first phase, a match that ended with a discreet defeat by 56-72 (30-31 at halftime).
And the third dates from 1988. It was played at La Casilla de Bilbao. A tour of the Americans to put in shape David Robinson, the theoretical figure of the USA 1988 Olympic team, who had been inactive for two years. He was accompanied by seven other players – Danny Manning, Mitch Richmond, Hersey Hawkins, JR Reid, Charles Smith, Dan Majerle and Vernell Coles – who were also going to appear in the final team. The victory went to the Americans by 87-109, with Nacho Solozábal (20) and Robinson (18) as top scorers. The match is not officially counted in the history of the National Team because the team, then led by Lolo Sainz, played with the ABP shirt on behalf not of the FEB but of the players’ association.