Written by John Hobbs who reported for TalkBasket in Lille.
Eurobasket 2015 is in the books as Spain lifted the trophy aloft in front of a European indoor attendance record of 27,322 at the Stade Pierre Mouroy.
A deserved success amid extreme hostility every time they stepped on to the court. But led by tournament MVP, Pau Gasol, they settled into their surroundings immediately and got the job done.
Lithuania, a proud basketball-mad nation who captured the hearts of France fans following the hosts’ semi-final exit went back to the capital Vilnius with yet another silver medal to their name, as the wait to stand on top of the podium at Eurobasket will now stretch to 14 years.
When France had collected their bronze medals and were slowly departing, leaving Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum free to address the crowd, the emotions running through the two NBA stars was evident, so much so that in the back of their minds, they might have been thinking that this was it.
After thanking the hometown fans for showing their appreciation to the national team throughout the tournament and apologising for not bringing them a gold medal, Parker and Batum vowed to be stronger and be ready for next year’s Rio Olympics.
Providing, of course that they prevail at the pre-Olympic qualifiers next year.
But what will we remember from Eurobasket 2015? What memories do we have?
Here are 10 observations on this year’s tournament…
SCARIOLO’S SPANISH GENIUS
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo left the Spanish team originally, having guided the national side to two Eurobasket titles and an Olympic silver medal. He felt that it was time for someone else to take charge.
Next up was Jose Antonio Orenga, who could only steer Spain to bronze at Eurobasket 2013 and a disappointing quarter-final place at a home World Cup with perhaps arguably his strongest ever roster at his disposal.
Scariolo made a grand return to the national side and despite a depleted roster without Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro. The crafty Italian got the job done.
However he takes control of the team and whatever he says, the players sure do listen, and it works.
THE ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM … SERIOUSLY???
TalkBasket are big fans of 2014 Euroleague MVP, Sergio Rodriguez, but his inclusion in the All-Tournament team was a bizarre one to say the least.
We were not alone, either. The moment Rodriguez was announced, a number of people along press row had puzzled looks on their faces, except for the hoards of Spanish media, some of which applauded the announcement.
Ahh, the media were amongst those that voted. We get it now.
Nando De Colo, Jonas Maciulis, Jonas Valanciunas and Pau Gasol were deserved but you can’t help but feel for leading candidates Milos Teodosic of Serbia and Mantas Kalnietis of Lithuania (in our eyes, of course).
“You can tell who has the larger contingent of media here, judging by who is on the All-Tournament side,” said one member of accredited media in the mixed zone, following the championship game.
I had voted for Milos Teodosic, Nando De Colo, Jonas Maciulis, Jan Vesely and Pau Gasol.
L’EQUIPE GOES TABLOID
During Eurobasket 2015, one of France’s leading newspapers drastically changed its image and style of newspaper journalism.
After 150 years of broadsheet journalism, L’Equipe switched to tabloid but unfortunately, the paper’s first day as a tabloid newspaper will not be one to remember for French fans.
After 150 years of broadsheet journalism, French paper L'Equipe has gone tabloid. A hard transition after last night. pic.twitter.com/0RXEBAoTyB
— John Hobbs (@johnswisshobbs) September 18, 2015
Upon arrival in Lille, there was a talk amongst the media that nations were not happy with their chosen accommodation.
“It isn’t the greatest, but it will have to do,” said one of the players who did not want his identity revealed when I asked him the question.
“For many of us, spectacular, fantastic [27,000] people but backstage is terrible – terrible hotel – terrible organisation,” said Turkey coach Ergin Ataman following his side’s second round loss to France.
When I had arrived at Spain’s team hotel for their championship game press conference on Saturday, overlooking the hotel from my taxi was all that I needed to know. The hotel looked more like a simple bed and breakfast that was placed in the middle of the national highway. Serbia were staying in the same hotel as well.
Georgia, Latvia as well as Serbia were unhappy with their hotels from the words of the media.
GREECE WON EUROBASKET 2015
Well, they were announced as the winners during the rehearsals in the lead-up to the championship game. Italy were the runners up, and Greece apparently have a player called John Smith.
Traditional, don’t you think?
WE KINDA MISSED THE SLOVENIAN VOLUNTEERS
Don’t get us wrong, being a volunteer must be hard work, and when you add the fact that you don’t get paid for it either, it’s only a role for enthusiastic people that generally love to help.
And while the volunteers across the group stage venues and of course, Lille were helpful when you needed something. They did not compare to the Eurobasket 2013 volunteers of Slovenia. A group of people, who always had a smile on their face, always said hello, with some even asking what your name was and amazingly, generally looked sad to see us leave.
Lille’s volunteers were straight-faced, looked like they were met with instructions and if they cracked a smile, they might have been told off.
It’s not a general complaint, but I think that they just needed to relax a bit more.
FANTASTIC FRENCH FANS
For the knockout round hosts of Lille, give yourselves a pat on the back. The atmosphere that you created was unforgettable.
27,000 fans packed the Stade Pierre Mouroy and on three occasions the European indoor attendance record was broken. It was great to see.
THE WEATHER WAS CRUEL TO THE TRAVELLERS
But the weather in Lille was terrible. It rained every day until the final and on the day of departure [Monday], it was glorious sunshine. Come on.
AN ALREADY STRONG NBA GATHERING FOR RIO?
France’s Tony Parker, Nicholas Batum and Spain’s Pau Gasol have already put their names in for Rio 2016. Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant are in for the USA with LeBron James more than likely. Next year’s Olympics could match London 2012 for talent.
NO UKRAINE FOR EUROBASKET 2017??
The original hosts for this year’s Eurobasket have not placed a bid for 2017 and financially, they might be able to afford it anyway. In the closing press conference FIBA said that they liked the idea of a multiple-country format [even if the nations competing didn’t] and would like to see it again.
The decision of who to award Eurobasket 2017 too will be decided in December.