25 August, 2023
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World Cup Global Ambassador Scola: ''I'm proud to have same role Kobe had''

MIES (Switzerland) - One of the finest players to ever suit up in international basketball, Luis Scola, is serving as a Global Ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

The Argentina legend, four years removed from playing in the World Cup Final in China and being named to the All-Star Five, has spoken exclusively to FIBA, in which he analyzes the game's development. Scola also shared his views of the sport now that he's off the court.

Scola was a star in the five World Cups he played in. His Argentina teams made it to the Final in 2002 and 2019. He is the second-highest scorer in World Cup history with 716 points, behind the Brazil legend Oscar (843 points), and is tied with Brazil great Ubiratan Pereira Maciel with the most games played at 41.

Scola famously captured an Olympic gold in 2004, and a bronze in 2008, and enjoyed numerous other team and personal achievements in his national team career.

What does it mean to you that you've been chosen as a global ambassador?
It's something that gives me joy. Clearly, my career is closely identified and linked to the World Cups. I had the opportunity to be in five and also play a lot of other tournaments. When I retired, I thought about how I was going to miss everything that a World Cup, an Olympic Games, or an American tournament (like FIBA AmeriCup) represents. The role of ambassador, it's not the same as playing - nothing is the same as playing - but I won't miss the World Cup because I'm going to be there again. I'm going to be a participant with a role that is different from that of a spectator.

Scola faced Germany in the Semi-Final of his first World Cup in Indianapolis, in 2002

How do you view the significance of being the second-highest scorer in the history of the World Cup behind Oscar, who had 843 points?
It has a value that needs no explanation because everyone knows. When I played, I said that I didn't look at the stats because when I retire, I would have time to review everything I had done. The reality is that even now that I've retired, I still don't look at it. I'm used to living like this. I played, I did good things, and bad ones, too, and I don't dwell on any, neither the good nor the bad. I don't need to say, 'I would have loved to have been an NBA champion, or to have played in an All-Star Game', all things that I didn't do. That didn't happen to me at all, and it doesn't consume me. It was all part of an incredible journey that I had the opportunity to live and I take it as a whole. This is what happened, it was incredible and I loved experiencing it. Today, I have to be somewhere else and I want the next journey to be just as fun as the last one. Regardless of points scored and tournaments played, the value of a career is debatable. There may be different visions or opinions about the same statistics. For example, Oscar got all his points in four World Cups. I'm very proud of the longevity of my career, of having been in a place for so long where I wanted to be. 

Scola averaged a tournament high 27.1 points per game at the 2010 World Cup in Turkey 

Is there a special memory of your participation in the five World Cups that stands out?
Many things happened in all of these years, so it is difficult for me to choose one in particular. It could be the one in 2002, which was the first, or the one in 2019, because it was the last. But it could also be the one in 2010 because it was the tournament that put me on another level [Scola led the tournament in scoring at 27.1 points per game]. It put me in a discussion that I hadn't been in until then.

On Saturday, April 29, at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila - one of the venues for the World Cup - the draw will be held. In 2019, Kobe Bryant took part as a global ambassador, and now, four years later, it will be Luis Scola. What's it like following in Kobe's footsteps?

It's tremendous. Because Kobe was the previous ambassador, it validates the importance of this role and I'm very proud to occupy the same role that he did. I'm a huge fan of his life story and have great respect for his career. Sadly, an indispensable person left us before his time.

Is there a draw you remember in particular from your playing days?
The last one, World Cup 2019, because qualifying for the Olympic Games depended on the World Cup. So the draw influenced the way to Tokyo, according to how the groups were formed.

Scola received a standing ovation by Australia when he walked off the court for the last time, at the Tokyo Olympics

You watched the South American U15 Championship in Buenos Aires in which Tomás, one of your sons, played. What was that like?
It was crazy. I saw people wearing the Scola number 4 jersey and my son told me 'Look, they have my jersey' and I laughed. Being in that tournament was a special moment for me as a father. Living from the outside an experience that I always had from the inside was something completely different.

Scola is no longer competing but still watches games

How are you coping with the role of watching games as a former player?
The truth is that I have gotten used to being off the court. I'm not going crazy, wanting to play, when I watch the games; that doesn't happen to me. If a team goes on a 10-0 run and hits a three-pointer that gives them the lead to finish the game and there is pandemonium, then I say 'it was good to be part of that'. Or when I see a player who scores 15 points in a quarter and is on a hot streak, I wonder what it would have been like to be in the stands watching myself do that, as happened in some games when I got that kind of production. 'Was that how it looked?’ I'd think. But I'm not dying to play or train.