Last summer at Eurobasket, I asked Spain coach Sergio Scariolo his thoughts on Juan Carlos Navarro as he single-handedly destroyed FYR of Macedonia in the semi-final.
He didn’t mince his words, and straight away described ‘La Bomba’ as “an artist” and a “basketball Picasso”. The Italian was right as well, Navarro created a masterpiece in Lithuania, and his performances will live on in the history vault for an extremely long time.
Despite becoming the Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer since then, on a personal note, his artistry has been kept quiet. Navarro has looked to fill the void, and we knew it was coming.
It was simply a question of when?
Just like he did when he signed off from international duty for the year with memorable performances against the Macedonians and France, Navarro bid farewell to 2012 as he delivered 33 points, six rebounds and three assists against bitter rivals Real Madrid in a performance reminiscent of his heroics in that final round of Eurobasket in Kaunas.
Madrid couldn’t stop him; the 32-year-old was aggressive in the first two quarters, utilizing his deadly, in the lane floater on numerous occasions. Maybe you could say the Real defence was slow to pick up Navarro’s intentions everytime he drove to the lane, and on one of his buckets, the sea of white vests looked like it had done a Moses and cleared the path for the guard to pass through the lane.
You couldn’t deny his genius though; he connected on all five of his three-point attempts and made everyone around him in blue and red better. His off-balance triple, which brought the third quarter to a close, was enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up to attention. The goosebumps were highly evident. The Barca fans that have suffered domestically this season, watching the normally top ranked Catalan side fall to tenth position had their pride restored in resounding fashion.
Navarro made his statement that 2013 will mark a new year, a new start and a new Barcelona.
This marked Real Madrid’s first loss of the season as well, they still top the Liga Endesa with a 14-1 record while Barcelona improves to 8-7 but there is no doubt that this win looked to have kick-started a revival of sorts.
Navarro’s expressions after hitting a beyond NBA-range three late in the fourth to give his side an 89-81 advantage looked like months of pure frustration were let out into a sense of joy and raw emotion. He urged the crowd to get behind the team, and the Catalan faithful did just that. It was deafening.
Real Madrid were guests of honour to Navarro’s exhibition of his latest work last night. He painted a ‘classico’ masterpiece that even Picasso would have been proud of.