25 August, 2023
10 September
70 Luigi Datome (ITA)
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Datome wants a ''good note'' for his last dance

MANILA (Philippines) - Luigi Datome has deflected talk throughout the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 about the end of his storied career. That final moment of wearing the Italy jersey is now just two days away. The last game with Italy. The last game of his career. The last dance.

And in true Gigi fashion, he downplayed it.

"I want to finish strong and the best way possible. I really want to talk about the team and it's important that we finish on a good note - not for the result but for the face that we show. And I am sure we are going to do the same as we did today," Datome said after Italy's 87-82 loss to Latvia in the Classification 5-8.

When asked again about that last dance wearing Italia, Datome offered up: "I try to treat every game as it's a last one. I will just try my best as always. It's the best way to finish."

The 35-year-old Datome announced before the World Cup that he would retire following the tournament, part of which saw him play his 200th game for the Azzurri.

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Datome has been representing Italy for two decades, starting in 2003 at the FIBA U16 European Championship. He played in two FIBA U18 European Championships and two FIBA U20 European Championships.

The Montebelluna native joined the senior team in 2007 at played one game at the FIBA EuroBasket that summer as a 19-year-old. Datome would end up playing at seven EuroBaskets as well as the 2019 and 2023 World Cups and the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

When asked about his favorite memory with the Italian team, Datome would only say: "Every day is a favorite memory with this group of guys."

Datome has shown in Manila that he can still contribute and help a team win. He averaged 8.7 points through seven games, ranking fifth on the team in scoring.

The biggest highlight was scoring 10 points within 100 seconds to help Italy come back from 16 points down and shock Serbia to eventually get to the Quarter-Finals for the first time in 25 years.

Datome also scored his World Cup-high 20 points against Latvia.

All that means that Datome will bid farewell to basketball on Saturday when Italy take on the loser between Slovenia and Lithuania for seventh place.

And the team wants to give Datome a worthy farewell.

"We have to finish strong because we deserve to finish strong. Also for our captain Gigi because he deserves that we play strong," said Gabriele Procida, one of the next generation of talents for Italy.

And head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco told the press conference: "We are focused on the last game of Gigi. Gigi scored 20 points tonight (laughs). He's unique."

Pozzecco continued: "I was thinking a couple of days ago what I would say about Gigi if they ask me. What kind of person is Gigi? What kind of player?

"It's so tough to explain. Unique is something that represents him. But then you want to explain why he is unique. First of all, you cannot have an example, and you cannot compare him to anyone else. It's so hard to explain why he's unique. He's unique because he's unique."

The coach is also certain Italy will do Datome proud in his final game - which will be his 203rd for his country.

"They will finish good because they want to give to Gigi what he deserves," Pozzecco said.

Datome himself believes the future of Italian basketball is bright.

"The core is there. For sure some young players will step up. Some players will leave and it's a good opportunity for the young players and the next generation. We will be there."

But only one more time will Italia be there with Gigi.