By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Back in 2015, the shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers were beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series. The main storyline ended up being what French star and then Blazers player Nicolas Batum had written on a locker room sign prior to the match.
“We don’t lose to Spanish players”
The “Spanish players” was actually one: Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol. Batum simply said that the message was a joke with Spanish forward Victor Claver, a Blazer’s member until March 2015. But its source was something deeper and older.
France – Spain games have a long history. They would meet time and again in knockout stages, semifinals, or title games in FIBA tournaments and, sometimes, those matches included a serious amount of tension.
When asked about these clashes, most players from the two national teams will probably tell you that there’s nothing more to them other than what is at stake in each situation.
That’s cute, considering that the evidence gathered from what we have seen all these years in these matches (or even outside of them) points to the contrary.
This is not just a traditional match-up between two powerhouse countries of European basketball. This is a rivalry that, in some cases that you’ll read below, has turned into borderline animosity and conflict.
And its new chapter will be forged tonight (18/9) as France and Spain meet in the 2022 EuroBasket Final.