70 years of Argentina basketball world champion: when the kids stopped kicking the ball to start chopping it

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Francisco López Vázquez, a journalist for Clarín for several decades, remembers what he lived as a 10-year-old boy, marveling at what the National Team had achieved at Luna Park.

The 1950 World Cup was a true sports phenomenon. During those dozen days, the kids put aside the soccer ball, our main hobby, and we went to chop it with the hand. TV had not yet arrived, but newspapers, magazines and radio excited us about this game. And with the superlative performance of our players, came the joy of the title and a strong impact throughout the country.

The neighborhood balconies were transformed into hoops and we kids thought we were Furlong, scorer and main figure, or Pérez Varela, a devilish point guard.

Argentines always like this sport. Already in 1938, that historical one selected with Paco del Río as a scorer gave the first victory to a team from the United States, a country that created this game in 1891, thanks to professor James Naismith.

In my case, when I started high school in 1953, Physical Education alternated soccer with hoops on a brick dust court. There was still a lot of gambling in the open, complicating it in windy days.

The question arises: why was our country chosen to be the headquarters? First of all, because the then basketball kingpin, William Jones, was amazed at the number of participating countries (23) in the London Olympics 1948, when our basketball had already promised and the United States team beat us by a tight 59-57.

With Europe recovering from the terrible war, Argentina was uneven among the candidates because it was a co-founder of FIBA ​​and in 1950 the centenary of the goodbye to General San Martín was commemorated.

With that expectation, Luna Park took away the prominence from boxing for more than a week, a regular convener of the legendary sports apple. Our team went from less to more, favored by an unprecedented 3-month concentration.

The 64-50 against the United States in the final made the superiority clear. With fast play the lack of physical stature was compensated. A high scoring was achieved by then. Remember that there was no 30 or 24 second rule to shoot at the hoop. If a team walked away by 5 or 6 points, they secured the ball and it was almost impossible for the win to escape.

Who do we beat if they didn’t bring in the best? This eternal question of ours is answered with the 16 points that we took from France, which was beaten again by 5 in the final round, during which our boys won all 5 games, with 300 points in favor and 200 against. The Americans only lost to Argentina and added 221 to 200 in their own basket.

The full squad: Pedro Bustos (23, 1.82, shooting guard), Hugo Del Vecchio (22, 1.84, forward), Leopoldo Contarbio (23, 1.86, power forward), Raúl Pérez Varela (25, 1.70, base), Vito Liva (26, 1.89, pivot), Oscar Furlong (22, 1.87, pivot), Roberto Viau (18, 1.81, base), Rubén Menini (26, 1, 83, guard), Ricardo González (25, 1.80, guard), Juan Carlos Uder (23, 1.86, forward), Omar Monza (21, 1.86, power forward) and Alberto López (24, 1.88 , pivot). Substitutes: Ignacio Poletti, Jorge Nure, Alberto Lozano and Omar Venturi.

Something to limit: that litter was so excellent that figures of the stature of Alberto Trama and Jaime Pérez, among others, were left out.

Only 3 world champions survive: Pedro Bustos (from Cordoba basketball), Ignacio Poletti (Santa Fe) and Ricardo Gonzalez. At 95 years old, Negro follow embraced the captain’s flag. He does so with his eternal sympathy and humility that recognizes Furlong as the best and scorer with 67 goals. But he hides that he scored 64, also in 6 games, but 7 centimeters less. His vitality allowed him to drive his car until recently.

Jorge Borau He was in charge of the impeccable physical preparation. The technical conduction was in charge of Jorge Canavesi, who taught for many years. I advised him Casimiro González Trilla, ahead of the time.

Oscar Furlong was tempted by 3 teams of the then new NBA: the Lakers, Baltimore and Philadelphia. “At that time, it did not have the current importance and I preferred to continue in the family business,” said Oscar, who years later turned to tennis, his other passion.

The remarkable repercussion in that remembered “Night of the Torches”, when the crowd withdrew from the Luna lighting their newspapers, gave basketball a important popular rise.

By Francisco López Vázquez, former Clarín journalist.

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