The pic was taken in Granada during the FIBA World Cup in 2014. Saving the footage of that day I stopped in this image. It was so iconic! That tournament was the first time José Calderón lost presence in the court with the spanish national team. And I think he lost his usual smile too. The Ricky Rubio’s development and with Sergio Rodríguez coming back in the team, the main affected was Jose. His role in the team was more as specialist, the shots in clutch moments were some kind of warranty. Maybe one day I’ll ask it to him face to face but I think was that moment, that pic, when he saw that the end was coming with Spain. Not immediately but since then he started to think about this with clarity.
The reduction of minutes came in the same moment os his first change in the NBA. After eight years in Toronto, where he was the leader of a consolidated team in the Eastern Conference. He felt by himself the rawness os this professionalized league, sometimes impersonal. He was traded with no notice. He listened lot of times about mates that had to package all their things and take a flight to other team, other city. That was exactly what he was living. That day to Detroit, the following summer signing with Dallas, Calderón only spent one year in Texas, following by the Knicks offer. New York was waiting for him while he was playing the World Cup with Spain. Lot of changes, turbulences where never he had. His road till then had been all the opposite.
The attitude and the reaction was like he is. This guy is optimist and brave, always with a smile every time. The same smile that suppose contagious and made us laugh (and cry) in Japan, Beijing and London. The medal, no matter gold, silver or bronze, always shinning more with that smile.
He never was the best in that generation of big players. The lights were over Raúl López and Juan Carlos Navarro when they played in the U18 team. After that, Pau Gasol absorbed all the media attention, he will keep it for long time yet. With this environment José Calderón knew how to find his space, his role, his presence. He grew up like a great player that knew how to play perfectly, joining his talent with the collective. His affection, the jokes, the support, the listen, the escort… lot of skills off the court. Maybe that’s the main reason because he is a great player but a huge mate too. The best friend of all of them, somebody who everyone miss in the camps if he is not there.
He missed the Eurobasket of 2009, it was mandatory after a hard season with notable injuries: “It has been a tough decision for me but I need to rest and achieve a good recovery of my injuries”. Just one year later, in the last friendly game before the World Cup of Turkey in 2010, José Calderón fell in another injury that obliged him to see the tournament from the stands. Since that moment he only was out the team during the Eurobasket of 2015, when Spain won the gold medal.
With all these conditions, the Olympic Games in Río de Janeiro became a mandatory issue, and probably could be a great opportunity to leave the national team with a good memory. There are more reasons to leave it. The other guards, Rubio and Rodríguez, are playing really good basketball and without the international championships José Calderón could extend his career path during some years more. This step hurts, no doubts! The national team is his family each summer, but he has to be smart and think in the future.
José Calderón is the pioneer, because he is the first player of this generation that decides to leave. Pau Gasol said in the tribute that the Spanish Federation showed in the screen that ‘José is the first in this step that all we’ll do’. It’s not easy because probably with this jersey he lived the most amazing successes of his career. He do it with style, because not to play wasn’t a problem to keep supporting from the bench, always with a big smile in the face, helping the team and accepting his new role in the team. Calderón was a true example of professionalism.
Calderón has achieved something difficult, show how is possible to do a transition without controversy, prioritizing the collective benefit over the individual one. He did it now and during the last twenty years wearing the spanish jersey, also during the young teams.
His first steps with the national team played with mates that had less talent than them, but that could teach him the values of the team. A group of friends, without ego, with a common project and traditions. He kept it during long time and passed it to the new generations after theirs. The same games that the older players played with cards still been played nowadays.
The spanish national team lose his contagious smile. After 193 pages, the Calderón’s book will not write more with red ink. the eight medals in his career will be there for ever but the main success with this group was not sporty: “This family have given us a lot to me and my relatives, it’ll be there for ever”. Thanks Calde!