Jorge Garbajosa

The ÑBA Figurehead Leading the Federation

09/02/2019 · By Iñigo Esteban
After a successful stage as a national team player, Jorge Garbajosa currently chairs the Spanish Basketball Federation. ©FEB

There are everlasting love affairs and paths that always cross even if, at times, they go apart. This is the story of Jorge Garbajosa and basketball. The current chairman of the Spanish Federation swapped the basketball shoes he jumped with on the NBA courts for a suit. Sat in his office, he faces his next big challenge: the China World Cup.

Famous sports journalist Andrés Montes was right to nickname him Multipurpose. This is how Jorge Garbajosa (Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, 1977) was known during his years as a player. A power-forward, he was capable of dodging stronger rivals within the lane lines and outside them to bombard the opposing team with perimeter shots. Few suspected back then that player that excelled at the NBA would land a managerial position of the calibre of chairman of the Spanish Basketball Federation. His sense of responsibility remains the same: "Basketball is our profession, but also our passion," he says convincingly.

Three years after taking the helm of the Federation, he will be living his first World Cup as a top executive. On the court and in the office, “enthusiasm is a common factor. Without it, it isn’t possible to develop a career as a sportsman, nor can you manage anything properly.” In fact, if there is something that motivates Garbajosa is new challenges: “As far as the World Cup goes, our ambition is high,” he points out.

“Our ambition for the China World Cup is high”

Garbajosa’s career path reveals a warrior spirit. Before chairing the Federation, he carved out his legend in basketball as a member of the golden generation known as ÑBA, along with the Gasol brothers, Juan Carlos Navarro, José Manuel Calderón among others. In his 167 matches wearing the Spanish team shirt, he won six medals, the most important being the gold medal at the 2006 World Cup in Japan. At EuroBasket 2009, he won a second gold, plus two silver medals at EuroBasket 2003 and 2007, another silver at the 2012 London Olympics, and a bronze at EuroBasket 2011 in Turkey.

At 16, eager to try new things, he moved from his native Madrid to Vitoria to play for Baskonia. That same curious personality took him to Italy to play for Benneton when he was already a renowned player. Scariolo, who was his boss back then –though now it is the other way around— drafted him four years later for Malaga’s Unicaja, a team with which he won a Copa del Rey and an ACB League Championship.

He packed his bags again, spurred by his desire to explore other avenues, but also by his wonderful performance at the World Cup in Japan, which earned him All-tournament honours. The NBA's Toronto Raptors invited Jorge Garbajosa to join the best league in the world, where he had a remarkable role and even got to play a game with the All-Rookie First Team. However, two injuries and the disputes with his bosses over his desire to play with the Spanish national team during the summers put an end to his stint in the United States. He went on to play for Russian side Khimki and for Real Madrid before returning to Unicaja as a prodigal son in 2011 to retire a year later.

What he didn't know was that his biggest leap was still to come—one that would take him from the court to an office. In 2013, Garbajosa joined the team of José Luis Sáez, whom he replaced as chairman of the FEB in 2016 after Sáez was tarnished by a corruption scandal.

Today the toughest defenders he has to dodge are the controversial FIBA ​​Windows –the coincidence of competition games between European clubs with games played by the Spanish team, which prevents many players in the biggest clubs from playing for the national side— and the strained relations with the ACB and the EuroLeague over schedules and calendars. So far he’s dribbling past these obstacles as well as he did on the court, leading a Federation that is bringing us joy summer after summer. "Probably, our greatest achievement in the past three years has been getting all the tiers in Spanish basketball to be aware that we belong to same team and that a team always has common goals rather than individual ones," he says. The organization of the EuroBasket Women 2021 alongside France and the brand new gold medal the women’s team won at the EuroBasket Women in Latvia and Serbia are the two most recent three-pointers Garbajosa has scored from his office—certainly not the last ones.