Basketball, maybe more than any other sport is a beautiful metaphor for life. The ball that bounces on the floor is the rhythm of the heartbeat, with the only difference that it is you who decides when to stop it and often you stop it in order to make a choice. The interesting thing is that right when you interrupt the dribble, the heart doesn’t listen to you anymore and starts beating as fast as it can, waiting for the pass to reach its destination or for the throw to end up in the net. Then you explode with joy for the point, sharing emotions with your teammates and who is there to support you. There are moments when you are not the one who is dribbling and you depend upon the choices of your opponents, but also those of your teammate and here is where personality emerges: shyness, hesitation, aggression, stiffness, generosity or fear. Each one of these moments can choose us or we are the ones who can choose it. Always. The metaphor could go on for many more lines, so many that this would become a novel in allegory, for this reason I will try to translate everything on a realistic dimension: the Eurolega final between Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe.
Playing such an important final gives the players on the court the possibility of opening up the young spirit in them, removing the routine of the profession and, sometimes, even the experience acquired over the years or the tricks of the work that can be showed off. The athlete is stripped naked and left with only one thing: the desire to win. Winning at all costs, winning for oneself, for the teammates, for the family, for friends and fans. But winning. This metaphor can be related to any sport, but we are bringing it back to basket because basket that we are speaking of. Therefore, we can say that in that moment of life when you have studied to arrive to that point and there is only one step missing to reach the finish line you can no longer solely count on effort, it is not enough anymore. You need to go beyond something that you can’t see, that you can’t measure, but that can be perceived. You feel it in the air and often you are helped, often you are penalized, but you are the only one who perceives it and you grit your teeth to continue on that trail and see where it takes you, hoping that the finish line is the symbol of victory: the trophy.
Without any doubt, it has been one of the most beautiful finals, always under a technical profile; both teams have performed well on their match plan, given to them by the choices and we can affirm without any problems that both have played with open cards, bringing on the court all that they had at their disposal. I do not want to go into the specifics, describing the plays or speaking about the schemes, but I will try to tell you about the game, following the rhythm dictated by the players, the coaches and by the beautiful frame of public present at the Stark Arena.
I believe it is right to do like this as a tribute to a match written, or better made up by musicians of basket who are able to play the notes in the correct tone, to position them in the right place and in the right moment without ever going wrong, simply waiting for the sound of the final alarm that stops everything; it is a little bit like midnight in fairytals or the break-time bell for students. I hence invite you to sit down, preferably comfortable and to listen to Real Madrid – Fenerbahçe. It is worth it.
The first symphony is composed by Pablo Laso on Friday night who, after having conquered the access to the final match, goes partying in a club in the center of Belgrade with his family. It is two in the morning and the club is about to close and the owner doesn’t seem to be interested in having another client, even if he is the coach of the team that in two days will be fighting for the European champions title. Laso accepts the refusal with a diplomatic smile, one that we have seen many times on his face, both after victories and losses. It is not the worst thing that has happened to him in the last few months and therefore he walks along the road with his family, proud of what he accomplished that night. Ironically, not even that much, my thought turns directly to Obradovic, whom I imagine sitting in his room studying every single action of the Real Madrid. I think about how nice and original it is to celebrate an accomplishment and I inevitably feel the desire to know the winner of the final. At 12 in the noon of the day after there is the press conference with the finalists: routine for Obradovic and event that is already known to Pablo Laso. The words, the tone of the voice, the posture of the body are elements that say a lot about the mood of those under the spotlights. Obradovic’s behaviors aren’t the charismatic and energetic ones that should belong to who has the energy to win once more, traits that always distinguish the Serbian coach. However, the king’s calmness while facing the press is unusual, even strange I would say. The fire in his eyes is missing. By his side, a shyer coach speaks clearly to everyone, with an open heart, respecting his opponents, but with the awareness of himself and his boys. “We are Real Madrid and for this we are always advantaged, even when we have an opponent of the caliber of Fenerbahçe”. Then, the two coaches leave with a photo in front of the trophy, as obliged by the procedure, and they go to amend their dresses for the great dance, completely submerged by the emotions of the night before the finals.
Living the final as a worker allows you to live the event at three hundred and sixty degrees, grasping every moment, every sensation and every change. It is the occasion to arrive to the Stark Arena with great advance, getting the position and observing the vastity of the emptiness: 18000 blue seats, publicity banners and the utter most silence, interrupted by the technicians and the organizers. I close my eyes and I imagine how that emptiness will be in a couple of hours, looking at the banners and the yellow shirts, voices and sounds coming from all directions and gradually searching for a harmony with the only intention of going in the game’s parquet and pushing everyone towards victory, eternal glory. Some hours later I am in the same position, with my eyes wide open and the ears that are ready to understand every sound, but the blue of the seats has gradually left its place to the yellow of the Turkish clothes, moving to a portion of Lithuanian green and a bright Russian red. In the left corner in front of the tribune for the press some white shyly emerges, the colour of the few Spanish fans who came to Belgrade to be close to their team. The voices are still not aimed at the court or, more rightly, not like I imagined. I thus turn my eyes towards the game’s parquet and I carefully observe the faces of the protagonists, trying to listen to their moods, stealing information from the way they pass the ball or the way they leave it between one pass and the other. I feel the tension, the fear, the energy, desire to win, but everything is gradually obscured by a young attitude of amusement: the players in court are in contact with the ball, the net and with the possibility to play a final; they forget about their physical problems, about what went well or bad during the season and they are left only with basket and the thirst for glory. Lamonica lifts the ball at two and I lose my sense of direction because all that some hours ago seemed pure imagination has now become concrete, from nothing with such a burst that I start trembling with excitement. Fenerbahçe is not alone and 15000 Turkish fans enter with their voices on the court, bringing with them their passion for their team, with its roots in their culture and the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of the Turks. In this moment, basket appears once again as a metaphor for life, precisely for the moments when you have to face a hard test and you realize that you are not alone; your energy is provided by who cares for you, believes in you and takes part in your moments. In fact, the start of the players in the blue shirt is perfect: harmony of who starts to compose on the wings of inspiration.
Suddenly, this harmony is less, without explanations and without questions. The pentagram changes colour and Luka Doncic starts chosing the notes, the smallest player, the one with all the pressure on his shoulders and the spotlights. His game is music, a platonic explanation and it is engaging; his teammates start following his rhythm, he faces the disapproval of the Turkish fans, it enchants him and Real takes control of the match. The metaphor continues to grow, Laso’s team sees the rain that leaves the place to a happier place, clouds cleaned away by a group of boys who during the season have fought against bad luck, suffering and hope: it is one of those moments that make you suffer and feel powerless. Nevertheless, you have to stand up and continue to face life and you do it without any fear, with awareness and will. Real continues to grow and is able to make its fans stand out, despite them being a minority, leaving the opponents in an absence of reference points. All the witnesses of that show that the parquet is gifting are mesmerized and, in the less expected moments, a player defined as a “system player” steals the scene, one of those who follows with perfection his role allowing his teammates to shine, but who remains far from the spotlight. Courage dictated by necessity becomes concrete: a penetration gives hope of an attempt of a triple that brings to a smash, in a climax. To the sky. Melli recharges the fans and keeps the match open. The second half of the final is pure genius, without corrections, without thoughts. If it is true that History choses people and makes their accomplishments for the sake of affirming them, then the chosen character is the nineteen-years old Luka Doncic who, helped by a Causeur on a good day, continues to compose his symphony. He smiles and the sound of the final alarm seals the will of History. The building suddenly appears colored of white, Madrid exults for the tenth victory over Europe. Luka, best player and 15000 Turks bowing down to what was accomplished by a team who made unity and humbleness its sources of strength.
The joy of the celebration gradually becomes a distant echo, meanwhile the color of the Stark Arena goes back to being the blue of the seats. The journalists stay in their positions to describe the accomplishment they just witnessed, the technicians dismantle everything. I go back to my position from where I saw the building fill up: it is now once again empty; the lights go off. In the dark you can still smell the glory, the awareness of having just witnessed a legendary game with a player who the world will remember.