Gigi Datome’s career ends on an emotional note in Manila

2023-09-09T14:17:22+00:00 2023-09-09T14:17:22+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

09/Sep/23 14:17

The 35-year-old small forward played his last-ever game against Slovenia after a 20-year professional career

By Cesare Milanti /

MANILA, Philippines – When the clock of the Mall of Asia Arena stopped at 3:26 minutes, the whole basketball world did the same, celebrating an icon like Gigi Datome. Both Italy and Slovenia, which were playing for the 7th spot in the 2023 FIBA World Cup celebrated the 35-year-old, who says goodbye to basketball.

Moreover, when he headed to the post-game press conference to sit in the middle – and not at the side, like players usually do –  next to Gianmarco Pozzecco, the former Fenerbahce and Olimpia Milano player was celebrated by the media, who proceeded with a standing ovation. “This is one of the many gestures I’ve received this summer, gestures of love and respect”, he first said.

“Tonight it was very emotional. I hope this is why I played so badly”, he commented after scoring only 1 point in the loss against Slovenia. “My teammates played hard and tried to make me finish with a win. However, after many years I’ve learned this is not the most important thing”, he then said in his opening statement. “I’m proud of this team, we showed that we could compete at the highest level”, Gigi Datome said on his team.

Being the captain of the Italian national team for the last summer in his career, he then took time to praise his teammates. “They also treated me so well, they made me special. One of the best summers of my life. I can’t say thank you to everybody. Also thanks to the referees, media, teammates, coaches, former coaches: thanks again to all of you”, he went on saying.

Next to him, Gianmarco Pozzecco also took time to comment on such an amazing career, which started way back in 2003. “Gigi is a legend. He’s unique, there’s no something quite similar like him. I’m lucky, in this epic moment. I’ll never forget it in my life. Gigi is a true legend”, the Italian national team head coach followed.

Asked by the Italian media what was like coaching such a legendary player, Pozzecco continued with en emotional statement. “The respect I have for Gigi is unmeasurable. Because he has been an amazing player, a winner. I respect him even more for how he managed to live his career, living everything he went through. The respect he gained as a person, moreover, has an even higher value. Everybody has the opportunity to choose how to get to their own goals, and Gigi chose to become a role model. This makes him unique”, Italy’s head coach continued.

Moreover, the Italian national team head coach revealed how he decided to give Gigi Datome one last standing ovation from the crowd. “During a timeout, I told him: “Gigi, you are going in”. And he told me: “No, I want to win: stick with who we have”. This tells you the person that Gigi is: nobody cares about this game, but he’s different. “Shut up, I decide: you are going in, you will come out and we are gonna celebrate you”, I said, and I put him back in”, Gianmarco Pozzecco added about his decision regarding Gigi Datome’s minutes.

Despite how it ended, Gigi Datome doesn’t think of prolonging his career with clubs or with the national team. “I have no regrets. It was my choice, I think it’s a good moment to step out. That’s why I feel grateful. Doing it now as captain of the Italian national team is an honor”, he said before analyzing his last summer with the Azzurri. “We are missing something. At the beginning of the tournament, you wouldn’t put us in the Top 8. Sometimes we go over our limits. It’s a humble lesson to finish”, the 35-year-old added.

In his last experience with the national team, Gigi Datome shared once again the stage with Nicolò Melli. “One of the big privileges I had in my career was having a true friend in the daily life, both with the clubs and with the national team. When you share values and you have the luck to have fun with the national team, representing the Azzurri jersey, is something special. He has been doing the captain already. I wish him the best, he deserves it. They deserve it”, the 35-year-old said.

Gigi Datome’s last opponents also gave their emotional support to the legend. “I’m privileged to have been part of Gigi Datome’s last game. He had an amazing career, he’s special”, Slovenia’s head coach Aleksander Sekulic said in the post-game press conference, just like Zoran Dragic. “He’s a great person, with an amazing career. I played in Italy, and I know how well respected he is, and he’s just with a right-way ego. He stopped playing in the World Cup and I wish him all the best for the future”, he followed.

Gigi Datome paid a visit to Philippine kids

On the eve of such a special occasion, the 35-year-old paid a visit to the historic Tenement Court in Taguig, spending some time with young kids who breathe basketball 24/7.

“I played two years in the NBA, and tomorrow I play my last game. You have to come!”, he first approached the Philippine kids who were there, surrounded by the seven-floor building that dives into such a curious basketball court, where players like LeBron James and – most recently – Jordan Clarkson have left their marks.

He took some time – next to his dad and brother -, to try learning the youngsters some tricks after having basketball secrets in his pocket for twenty years. “If you go high, it’s bigger and bigger. The higher is the arch, the more possibility you have to score”, he said while explaining to a kid how to shoot before making them discover the knockout game, as captured by Sky Sport.

“Here in the Philippines, people are extremely educated, kind, and gentle. There was no agonism between them, they were hesitating to eliminate the others”, he then said. “Playing like this, with your mind clear from thoughts, is the best moment”, Gigi Datome added. However, he soon realized he could never sit on a bench to coach. “I don’t have patience, today I was already getting nervous”, he joked.


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