The celebration of the Argentine team after winning 87 to 80 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Photo: AP
On September 4, 2002, 20 years ago, Argentina beat the United States 87-80 in a second round match World Cup in Indianapolis 2002. That result was a direct stab at the heart of the Dream Team made up of NBA players, who He had been undefeated for 10 years and 58 victoriesand a milestone for Argentine sport.
It is a historic feat of Golden generation which, like any important event, acquires value over time. And also, with which they coined their nickname. On this special date, the memory is worthwhile.
Beginning with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the United States national team began to consist of NBA players. This meant that before the initial jump the result was almost fixed. The country has grown accustomed to reaping victories. One after the other. Until he had to face, at home, an Argentine team with budding stars who had just won gold at the 2001 FIBA Americas in Neuquén and whose goal was to return to the podium.
The first fall of the famous Dream Team put a stop to the alleged unbeatenability of the North Americans and reshaped the world stage. In turn, he placed the Argentine team on the world stage.
A historic achievement
The Argentine national team came to that match after beating New Zealand, Russia and Venezuela in the first phase and then China and Germany in the second. Luca Vittorianoone of the founding members of the Golden Generation and a member of that team, recalls conversing with Clarione: “In that tournament we were doing very well and we had the illusion of continuing to advance.”
“The crossover was definitive for the qualifiers. If we lost it was part of the logic. If that happens, it would be Yugoslavia, the rival in the final. We knew what the United States stood for, but we had the illusion that we were competing with the best And we take it seriously. “
The players were able to win because they showed fantastic basketball despite their inexperience. Seven of the 12 called up were competing for their first time in a World Cup: Lucas Victoriano, Leandro Palladino, Andrés Nocioni, Hugo Scoochini, Leonardo Gutiérrez, Gabriel Fernández and Luis Scola; but opposite was the Dream Team.
“They were all famous and admired players. Of course we respected them,” recalls the former point guard and current coach of the Instituto de Córdoba. Even if they had to face basketball players like Reggie Miller, Ben Wallace or Jermaine O’Nealthe Argentines had their own recipe: “We had to remove them from the poster and play as before”.
“We were very focused. We started the game very well with absolute dominance in defense and attack. And, as time went by, we begin to see a certain degree of frustration in them for not being comfortable. They were like out of the game. And if we continued with that plan, we believed we could win it, “says the former Real Madrid and Olimpia de Venado Tuerto.
The first half was all for Argentina, who showed conviction, talent and concentration. In the locker room they went up 53 to 27. At times the dominance of the team led by Rubén Magnano resulted in the scoreboard that came to score a difference of 20 points.
“I think they didn’t know us. They didn’t know who we were. And we followed a plan and sometimes we forgot who we were playing against. We attacked in an orderly way and defended well. We built a party that was undermining their morale. They saw that talent alone was not enough. They needed to play as a team and they weren’t used to it. Even we ourselves were surprised by the difference in the result and in the game “, adds Victoriano, the only Argentine who won the National League as a player and coach.
The dunk remembered chapu Notions, after a passage by Pepe Sánchez, it was left to history. And Jermaine O’Neal’s unsportsmanlike foul on Luis Scola (who steps on him after suffering a tremendous block in attack) was a great demonstration of impotence Y frustration how Americans felt when they saw themselves overwhelmed.
Although the locals managed to reduce the score, the victory at Gainbridge Fieldhouse went to the blue-white team. The Argentines then beat Brazil 78-67 in the quarter-finals and Germany 86-80 in the semifinals.
Leandro Palladino, who shone in Atenas de Córdoba where he was crowned twice (1997 and 1998) and played in Serie A in Italy and in the ACB League in Spain, explains how he felt after the match against the United States: “When we want to remember and we see that we have won the joy and the emotion has begun, especially considering who was beaten and where “. However, they had to quickly change the chip: “We arrived at the hotel and had to think about the next game. tomorrow’s match was more important than the previous one to continue looking for our goal, the podium“. A synthesis of the mentality of that team.
That World Cup ended with a bittersweet taste for the young people who put the country on everyone’s lips after falling in the final against Yugoslavia 84-77, with Manu Ginóbili injured and a controversial result. Anyway, they managed to hang the silver medal and be the first to beat the Dream Team.
“For many of the members of the Golden Generation, playing in Europe has finished polishing us,” confesses the former shooting guard 46 years earlier. Clarione. The Bullwho currently has a campus where he trains young people, elaborates: “We had very good years in the National League, where we developed and trained. But playing in Europe strengthened us. For the contact, the level, the competition and the workout routine we had.
a special speech
Palladino, originally from Concepción del Uruguay, who retired in 2006 with Tomás de Rocamora’s shirt, remembers the “nerves” and “tension” he experienced before the historic match against the Dream Team. But he saves, like his partner Lucas Victoriano, one particular speech that made him do the click.
“The truth was that the one before that game was very special. Our coaching staff had two interviews before the games. One in the hotel where we were staying and the other just before the game started. when we went we asked ourselves about the message that Rubén (Magnano) was about to give us “, details the former escort.
And he adds: “When he arrived he began to give us the game strategies and to tell us who defended whom. He was addressing the discussion, approaching the game as if it were just another game. Really?”. And we realized that it was a speech to propose a game that could be won. With respect and seriousness, but you could. And that message got to us“.
To keep up with the Americans who showed a certain arrogance, the Argentine players performed a ritual exiting the locker room that has become the cabal of the Golden Generation over the years. They all started jumping and singing together: “This is the Argentine band, they are dancing from the head. It moves here, it moves there. This is the craziest band out there“. That day the iconic song was born which they then repeated for a long time.
The relationship of the players who belonged to the Golden Generation was always special. Concentrations, travels and tournaments (with the joy generated by winning and learning from losing) united them. The Bull Palladino knows that “the company was essential to form a great work team”. “If I see them tomorrow it’s as if I saw them yesterday”, he says with conviction.
Meanwhile, Lucas Victoriano is aware that “the collective affection will remain forever”. And he reiterates the importance of the bond with his teammates: “We have experienced very strong things being together. We have a certain feeling of brotherhood, which is more than friendship. There is no ego, there is no jealousy, there is nothing. That group is great. I am very proud to belong to the Golden Generation “.
That team that beat the NBA Dream Team for the first time in its history not only achieved a victory in a basketball game against its creators. That team managed to transcend. Because that victory was the feat that imposed the Golden Generation before everyone’s eyes and proved that nothing is impossible. A generation that surprised the whole world 20 years ago and beat the powerful at home.