BEIJING (AP) – Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.
He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.
Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months – and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.
“We weren’t the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We weren’t the bigger team. Put anything you want, but we were the team with the biggest heart and we showed it tonight and we showed it during the whole tournament.”
Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.
The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom – who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.
The first 18 all did it for the US.
This time, Vamos España!
“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said. “What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”
Llull and Rudy Fernandez – the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy – went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.
Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.
“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said. “But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”
Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.
“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”
Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans who stood, sang and chanted for much of the game were relatively quiet.
The day belonged to Spain.
And the year belongs to Gasol.
“It’s unbelievable,” Gasol said.
Joining Rubio on the all-tournament team were Gasol, Scola, France’s Evan Fournier and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Among those in attendance: Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, FIBA ambassador and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, plus Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – both four-time NBA champions with San Antonio.
5 WITH 2
Spain is the fifth nation to win the World Cup (or its predecessor, the world championship) at least twice. The US and Yugoslavia are five-time champions, the Soviet Union won three titles and Brazil has won two.