Monday, February 16, 2009

Quick Fernando Martín Note

Nice post by Tom Ziller at the Sporting Blog on how the Dunk Contest is apparently the last bastion of NBA xenophobia, in terms of how Rudy Fernandez's dunks were underappreciated and undervalued a little on Saturday, as well as how Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith somewhat pathetically denigrated Spain, the reigning basketball world champs and the country which came within a whisker of knocking off Team USA in Beijing even though they started a 17-year-old at the point.

Here are Rudy's two dunks:


In his first dunk, Rudy paid tribute to Fernando Martín, the first Spanish-born player in the NBA, who played briefly with the Blazers in 1986-87, and died in a car accident in 1989. It kind of caught folks off-guard on the TNT broadcast, so in the interest of giving Martín a more proper tribute before the U.S. audience, we point to a 2001 profile of George Karl from Sports Illustrated.

Karl was the head coach of Real Madrid when Martín, who was the team's star, died. In the Frank Deford piece, Karl, who played in the Final Four at North Carolina and coached in the NBA Finals with the Sonics, said that the game following Martín's death "was an incredible moment. There has been nothing like it in my life except the births of my children.":
    A dozen years ago, in December 1989, when Karl was in his first tour with the Real Madrid team, his big star, Fernando Martín, was killed in an automobile accident. Martín hadn't only been the best Spanish player ever. He was also a charismatic figure. "He was like James Dean," Karl recalls. The next evening the body was placed in the arena, and the fans trooped by, late into the night, viewing it. It rained the following day, and the buses carrying the team members and the dignitaries couldn't get through an arch at the cemetery. Everybody had to alight in the cold rain and trudge through the mud to the grave. "It was like a Fellini movie," says Karl.

    Real Madrid had a game that night, and beforehand, at the team dinner, too much red wine was consumed. At the arena Martín's jersey was draped over his chair. Roses were everywhere. Near the top of the stands, looking down, sat the dead man's mother, weeping. Martín's kid brother, Antonio, another player on the team, showed up minutes before tip-off and tearfully assured Karl that he was ready to play. Real Madrid—coach and players and fans-was naked, shivering with sorrow. The team played abysmally.

    Early in the second half, Real Madrid trailed by 19 points. Suddenly Karl's players came alive. There was no rhyme or reason, except that somehow Martín must have been with them. In seven minutes they turned the game around, 38 points' worth. Seven minutes, from 19 down to 19 up. Real Madrid coasted from there.

    Señora Martín was waving from on high, like Evita from the balcony at the Casa Rosada. In unison the stands cried, "Fernando está aquí." Fernando is here. When the buzzer sounded, Karl collapsed in his seat as the players dashed through the crowd to embrace their dead teammate's mother. "Fernando está aquí. Fernando está aquí." Karl cried. "It was an incredible moment," he says. "There has been nothing like it in my life except the births of my children."

    He is sitting in his office, which overlooks the Bucks' practice court. Peering out, he seems instead to be looking back to that court in Madrid. Listening. "Fernando está aquí" Karl says softly, shaking his head, marveling at the memory.
As always, just remember that we're all one big world of ballers. Respect the game.

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32 Comments:

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, from a Spaniard. I guess times like these help us tell the classy guys from the idiots.

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous PistonsNation.com said...

Thanks for the post. Great read.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Rob Mahoney said...

I've got goosebumps.

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a great post, thanks for digging up that piece....

Owen

 
At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Alfonso said...

Hi there, first time poster although I've been reading your blog for a while, enjoying your thoughtful analysis.

I just want to thank you for this small tribute to Fernando Martin. Even as a fan of Real Madrid's archrival FC Barcelona, I respected and admired Martin, and his duels with Barcelona's Audie Norris are legendary and yet unsurpassed in my basketball memory. Norris himself wept like a child at Fernando's funeral.

That was a tragic loss, and followed not very long after (if memory serves) by the death in another car accident of Drazen Petrovic, another of Europe's greatest (and former player of Real Madrid and Portland as well).

Greetings from Spain and congratulations for keeping an eye on and acknowledging non-NBA basketball (where amazing also happens).

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Thomas Javier Castillo said...

Someone forward this to Kenny Smith and the guys at TNT.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Kurl Peter said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Write, thats a true basketball story. As for the TNT commentators, whatever it is that they do, fair overall basketball analysis is not it. They clearly favored Dwight and Nate over Smith and Fernandez. It is as if the whole thing was scripted and they were given a copy. Smith and Fernandez would lose and Dwight and Nate would square off in the final round. Cliche style "david vs goliath" "5'9 against 6'11" I am a big fan of NBA but they make me sick sometime.

 
At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and they put the referee in jail for betting on games when the nba itself fixes games

 
At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd want to say too many things about Fernando, but I'm just going to say that, when come back of his NBA adventure, journalist ask him If he had wasted a year in Portland and Fernando used to say: "No way, I went to Portland to learn, and I did it". From Fuenlabrada, the city where Fernando has a court with his name, I just want to say... Thanks Rudy, I cried last Saturday like a child... Thanks Rudy.

 
At 1:06 AM, Blogger D12 said...

I thought that @ one point Kenny Smith said "is that Ricky Martin?" so embarrassing for the world in general. Rudy Brought the pain the dunk contest

 
At 5:03 AM, Blogger Thomas Rooney said...

Excellent piece, really enjoyed reading it.

In fact, the site as a whole is excellent. Would you be able to email me when you get the chance?

Thanks a lot,

Thomas

ps. my email can be found in my profile.

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Evan said...

Another Barcelona (and a Lakers) fan here, and just wanted to say that was a great piece by Karl.

I think Fernandez was killed on the second dunk by the endless attempts. If he came out with a successful dunk on the first or second attempt, it would have scored higher, I think.

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kenny Smith is a hater and a clown. Reggie is nothing better than his lackee

 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great read. Great story. My question is when exactly did Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller become spokepeople for the NBA? Their biased opinions are as obvious as thier egos. Kenny actually said during the 3 point shootout that D.Cook stood "zero" chance and "it would have been the biggest upset in the history of the contest if Cook lasted into the 2nd round". The best part was his reasoning. He said I know NBA shooters and talent and this kid is not either. Remove foot from mouth at any time Kenny.

 
At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, thank you.

 
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