By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
There hadn’t been an American champion in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup for over four decades…
The last time a team from the USA won the tournament was in 1974. Back then, the Maryland University’s Terrapins beat a headlined by future Hall Of Famer Dino Meneghin Ignis Varese 81 – 80 to win the title.
“That’s pretty big. We just have to take it as a ‘Team USA’ type vibe and go over there and play,” Blair told Eurohoops.
Austin won’t be at full strength at the tournament. Still, Blair hopes that all those who will be present at the Carioca Arena in Rio, Brazil, will meet what is anticipated of them.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and we just have to live up to our expectations. We’re just going to play hard,” Blair said to Eurohoops.
Blair and his teammates travel to Brazil bearing certain responsibilities in their bags. Their jerseys will sport the Austin Spurs logo but at the same time represent so much more.
By competing in the Intercontinental Cup, Austin will also serve as the ambassador of not only historic franchise such as five-time NBA champions San Antonio Spurs but of the whole NBA in general.
“It’s [participating in the Intercontinental Cup] very important. Just for our culture and organization. And the NBA alone,” Blair said.
The USA is once again sending a team to the Intercontinental Cup for the first time since 1987 when a selected group of NCAA players (including future European champion with Real Madrid Joe Arlauckas) compiled the “Washington All-Stars”
Yet another reason why Blair believes his team has a mission to carry out in Rio in what is marked as USA’s return to the Intercontinental Cup.
“It’s the first time in a long time we have this opportunity. So we’re going to try our best to win it,” Blair commented.
The Intercontinental Cup will be an entirely new experience for Blair and the rest of his squad. So they should enjoy the whole experience en route to accomplishing the task at hand.
“It’s different. It’s new, obviously. I know there’s going to be a lot of people down there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Blair and the Spurs will face tournament host, Brazilian side Flamengo in the semifinal. It’s a team that features former longtime NBAer Anderson Varejao, a player that Blair is well acquainted with from their matchups in the league.
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
“I know him,” Blair said on Varejao. “He’s one crafty big.”
The tournament is special in a personal sense for Blair. If Austin beats Flamengo and advances to the title game then they might face Argentinian team and reigning FIBA Americas champion, San Lorenzo. The team with which Blair spent a couple of months in the previous season.
Even though it was a short-term affair, Blair still has strong memories from his time in Argentina
“I remember there’s great chemistry over there. Great players, great coaches. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing my old teammates and everything. It’s a great team, great organization, I liked it, I wish them the best, and hopefully, we see them in the final.”
Feature photo: Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images