As has become the tradition over the last few seasons, Endesa's Madrid headquarters hosted the presentation ceremony for the Endesa League’s 2015-16 season, which gets underway this weekend. The event took place in a packed auditorium with Juanma López Iturriaga taking the stage and encouraging all the true “Basketball Fans” to show their support by wearing their team scarves.
After a video showing some spectacular plays that are certain to be repeated this season, it was time to start the speeches. The first was from Borja Prado, the Endesa CEO, who indicated that “this is our fifth year of sponsorship and it is wonderful, because we are convinced that we took the right decision at the right time. It was a carefully considered decision, in which we wanted to align ourselves with basketball and turn it into a concept that is closely associated with Endesa and we have achieved this. It has been achieved thanks to the efforts of many people, so I would like to thank the ACB and the players and coaches who continually increase our commitment. I also want to mention the media, whose daily work is essential".
"Basketball shares a number of values with our company: teamwork, motivation, leadership, etc. To wed ourselves to these ideas was a big decision and we hope to continue this “marriage" for many years and improve it every day”, he added, pointing out that “for us basketball will continue to be linked to the company and we will continue supporting it. You have always thanked us for sponsoring basketball, today it is our turn to thank all of you for all that basketball has given to Endesa. We are grateful for all it is providing us with. Sponsorship is not just advertising, it is much more, it is the ability to present human values that are linked with the company’s image”.
The CEO of the competition’s main sponsor recalled the success of the Spanish team at EuroBasket, words that came after a video tribute and a standing ovation from the entire audience present at the event. Next, the president of the ACB, Francisco Roca, affirmed that “this is an exciting moment, for the ACB as well as for the clubs, coaches and referees, because it is great to get the competition underway and to do so following on from the success of the national team", which he went on to congratulate on its success. “I have to thank Endesa for the support they have given to basketball, to everyone involved in the sport, over many years. They support us and push us and thanks to this we strive to achieve results every day”.
Roca highlighted that “the ACB is extremely proud of being the training ground for the players that then go on to have success with the national team. And also successes such as the Euroleague win for Real Madrid and Herbalife Gran Canaria reaching the Eurocup finals, make us the best league outside the United States”. He also recalled that “we started the Endesa Super Cup with an unprecedented final and we had a really high standard of basketball. I will promise you now that it will be an exciting season with a high standard of basketball”.
“I want to thank all the media for their support; the fans for their loyalty throughout the season; the other sponsors that, along with Endesa, make the management and marketing of the competition possible and the staff of the clubs, the players, coaches and referees who really make this competition what it is and who join with me in inviting all the fans to enjoy the excitement of the Endesa League.
In order to introduce the event’s big stars Juanma López Iturriaga was joined by Antoni Daimiel, one of the most well-known Spanish basketball journalists. Both of them then introduced the stars of the 2015-16 Endesa League. Five players and five coaches representing the 18 clubs that will start the race for the title next weekend.
They all then had an interesting discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of their rivals in an enjoyable exchange of views.
Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid) talked about the season saying "we play in big clubs with a lot of pressure, when you lose, it’s a crisis. Each game is a final, we are used to it because we have been playing at this level for many years, the youngsters come in strong but you’ve got to be in it for the long haul". “This year we have the benefit of defending our titles and this should motivate us to have a good season”, he added.
Juan Carlos Navarro (FC Barcelona Lassa) thinks “there are no relaxed games now. Physically and in our preparation each year we are improving, the young players and those that come from abroad to an attractive league such as ours ensure there are no easy games: if your relax you lose”.
Dani Díez (Unicaja) pointed out that “Valencia and Unicaja have really strengthened their teams, we demonstrated in the Endesa Super Cup that we can beat Real Madrid and that is the idea. Valencia, Baskonia, Unicaja are much stronger and they will be competing for the titles and to get into the finals”.
For his part, Guillem Vives (Valencia Basket Club) noted "we know the quality of Barça and Madrid, but we youngsters are less aware and we are going to try to win it all. The older players warn you, but I try to use my ambition to achieve things and this is good for the team”. “We know the quality they have and they are physically strong. We have admired them since we were little; playing the first game against them is a "rush". We will push ourselves to make sure we are also up there”, he added.
Lastly, Juancho Hernangómez (Movistar Estudiantes) considers: “In my case, with Movistar Estudiantes, the hardest part is now, to start on the right foot, we are going to try collecting victories for the end of the season. How the season goes depends on how we start”.
The event continued in the hands of comedian Raúl Pérez, who with his imitations allowed the likes of Rafa Nadal, Sergio Ramos, Eduardo Punset and Andrés Iniesta, among others, to also participate in the presentation, with a touch of humour.
It was then the coaches’ turn and the five that already know what it is to be an Endesa League champion, and who are returning to try to repeat their success, took to the stage.
They went up on stage individually: Luis Casimiro, Joan Plaza, Pablo Laso, Xavi Pascual and lastly the most successful, Aito García Reneses. They all took part in a short discussion analysing the imminent start of the season.
Pascual pointed out that in the competition “I’m struck by how competitive it is, any of our rivals could win against anyone, at any time. There is always a reason to watch a game". In relation to the recent Endesa Super Cup title he stated “winning always feels good and when you haven’t won for a while you really know it”.
Pablo Laso talked about “the entertainment. I see the courts, the people coming again and again. As entertainment the Endesa League is at the highest level”. He also praised the value of the Spanish coaches: “as they are good and they show it, they train in the league and there are Spanish coaches throughout the world”.
Joan Plaza recalled “in EuroBasket we have been the league with the most players, we have won, we are a source of players for the NBA... Basketball is becoming more rich, the coaches also have a high level...". When talking about the pressure, the trainer emphasised that “we are Mediterranean, we are European, we want to win yesterday and we want everything to happen quickly, but we are clear that success comes out of perseverance. We all want to improve and know you have to be aware of your limitations".
Luis Casimiro said “it is a very demanding league from the first game to the last. This is particularly true for the smaller teams, we have hard games right from the start”. “The coaches are trained in excellence. The pressure is always there, there is pressure in all the teams as well as demands. The coach demands a lot of himself from the first day to the last. It’s in our DNA”, he added.
Lastly, Aíto emphasised the need to eliminate the tactical foul: “What rule would I change? The tactical foul that stops counterattacks, it has to be punished more and this would stop teams halting counterattacks. If you do not run, well… It’s almost not worth training because if they are going to stop us…”.
The event was brought to a close following a promotional video and the traditional photo session. Now, we are just waiting for the ball to be thrown into the air and for the 2015-16 Endesa League to begin. A true “Golden League”.