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.
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