Friday was a historic day for Malaga and its sport. It had little to do with the landing at the Martín Carpena of the superstar Luka Doncic, who dragged hundreds of fans to get a signature or a photo. Nothing is further from reality. The great protagonist of the night was Alberto Díaz, the second player from Málaga in basketball of the story that defends the colors of the Spanish team at home.
The truth is that there are not a few times that Spain has played in recent years at the Martín Carpena. For example, since 2016 he has competed five times -four victories and one defeat- against Lithuania, Venezuela, the Ivory Coast, Congo and, which was the most recent until this Friday, France in 2021. Well, in none of them had a player from Malaga been on the court… until now.
Alberto Díaz entered this select club through the front door: against Slovenia, defending Doncic on occasions and with the assurance that, “knocking on wood”, he will be one of the 12 chosen to be in the World Cup, Scariolo confirmed. In fact, his participation was a good example of why he is going to be on that final list: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals with an absolute display of character that has already left its mark on the Eurobasket.
The captain of Unicaja is already a fixed of the selection. It was in its beginnings with “La Familia” when the NBA or the Euroleague were not there and it is now when the coach has all the players at his disposal. He is not the top scorer, nor is he the most brilliant on a technical level, but it was impossible to think of a call-up for the World Cup without having the man from Malaga in mind. What would the European Championship have been without that robbery in the last seconds of Larkin? Without Alberto against Lithuania? Without his defense of Schroder?…
Now he is the second man from Malaga to act as a prophet in his land with the national team with the only precedent for Nacho Rodríguez, who had starred in such a feat before and not once, but twice. The first was in 1995, still in the ranks of Unicaja, when Lithuania managed to defeat Spain 77-83. While the second took place in 2002already at Barça, this time with an 87-80 victory against Russia.
Berni Rodríguez and Carlos Cabezas
Far from it Alberto Díaz and Nacho Rodríguez have been the only people from Malaga to play for Spain. Precisely, the two Unicaja ambassadors have been illustrious national team as ‘golden juniors’. What’s more, both made their absolute debut on November 21, 2001 in a match corresponding to the Pre-European Championship in Sweden 2003. Carlos Cabezas added 78 caps -gold in the 2006 World Cup and the 2009 European Championship, and silver in the 2007 European Championship-, while Berni Rodríguez made 54 -gold in the 2006 World Cup and silver in the 2007 European Championship, and in the 2008 Olympic Games-. However, none of those games was in Malaga.
Precisely, Alberto Díaz commented the same thing in the run-up to the Centennial Tournament. «I spoke before with Carlos Cabezas and Berni Rodríguez, who have that little thorn of not having played at home with the national team. For me it is a pride and a privilege to do it in Malagaand I will enjoy it a lot”, to which must be added, on a personal level, the fact of being a town crier at the 2023 Fair in his city.
In short, a magical weekend that also has the team’s confrontation against the United States. a match for enjoy the character of the captain of Unicaja against some of the great youngsters of the NBA. Who’d say…