Marco Belinelli (NBA champion)

L'Italia che vince in NBA: Marco Belinelli

Feb 26, 2014 3747 ITA ENG

In 1986 the Americans, always looking for new ways to measure competition in sports, invented a game for the top three shooters in the NBA, the "Three Point Shootout". During the All-Star Game week, the best shooters from afar were challenging each other with several series of shots from beyond the arc, with little time available and therefore under pressure. The first three years were won by an American basketball legend, Larry Bird. Since then, except for three years, the game has always been dominated by American basketball players: the NBA is the basketball league for excellence, where the strongest players in the world compete against each other.

In the same days of the first Larry Bird's victory in 1986, in San Giovanni in Persiceto in the province of Bologna was born he who won the game this year: for the first time the champion is an Italian, Marco Belinelli. Wearing the jersey of his team, the San Antonio Spurs, Marco has disintegrated his opponent. Marco Belinelli is among the four Italian players in the NBA the one who is way in better shape. Of the other three, one has been injured for months: Danilo Gallinari did torn his ACL in his left knee one year ago, playing for his Denver Nuggets, and his rehab has been very complicated. The other two Italian players are Andrea Bargnani, who is not playing now due to a problem at his right elbow, this year alternating good performances to other not at his level, playing for the New York Knicks; and Luigi "Gigi" Datome, in his first year with the Detroit Pistons.

In short, the Italian star in the NBA is Belinelli, who, in addition to the shootout, at the end of November 2013 was leading the league in three-point shooting percentage with a crazy 55.5% (22-of-40 at that time; now he is fourth). Belinelli is not new in the NBA: he's been playing there since 2007, first with Golden State Warriors (in Oakland, California), then with Toronto Raptors (Toronto is in Canada but its team plays in the NBA: it was welcomed there by the Committee at that time led by a very important and successful Italian American, Jerry Colangelo, a guest of a former interview on We the Italians), then to New Orleans with the Hornets and then with the legendary Chicago Bulls. Since 2013 he is in San Antonio, Texas, where he seems to have found a wonderful rhythm and is a star of the team, which is one of the most interesting and entertaining of the NBA, former finalist last year (when Marco was in Chicago).

Belinelli is of course also part of the Italian national basketball. We at We the Italians have had the occasion to exchange a couple of quick words with him, in the year that consecrated him to the highest world levels of excellence in the sport he loves. Another example of success when Italy and the United States get together.

Marco, this is your best season so far in NBA. Please describe us this experience of yours

I am doing what I love, the dream I had since I was a child. I feel very lucky, but I know that I worked very hard to get this far and I'm still working every day to improve.

Which differences do you see in sport between the United States and Italy?

It's completely different. The NBA players are responsible for their own: there are no meetings or training camps. We are only required to comply with schedules and appointments, then it's up to each one's professionalism. The public attending the games does it as part of a feast: there is hardly rooting against. They go to watch a show.

You play in San Antonio, Texas, which is not the typical large American city that, after having received millions of European immigrants, bears the marks of the influence of our continent ...

San Antonio is a small town that has a strong Mexican influence. It has nothing to do with Italy, I cannot make comparisons. I've lived in many cities: San Francisco, Toronto, New Orleans, Chicago. Every one of them is very different, but none is comparable to Italy, for any aspect.

In the past, sport has been a major turning point in the perception for the Italian immigrants in the USA. The first Italian champions were among those who demonstrated that the Italians did not deserve the discriminations they were targeted with. You are not Italian American, your situation is different: do the American of Italian descent see the same in you, or now things have changed?

When I'm playing, the Italians always let me feel their support, and that's very good. But over the years I realize to be appreciated independently from the heritage and nationality.

As far as you know, what do the Americans know about the Italian sport?

The Americans know that in Italy there is soccer. I think that they know little else about the Italian sport.

What would you bring back in Italy from your American experience, if and when you will return here to continue your career, either as a player or as a coach?

I would like to bring back to Italy the concentration and the organization that I've seen here, that we sometimes lack in Italy.

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