Since 2000, having Argentines in the NBA has become normal. So much so that we have even given ourselves the luxury of having a legend like Manu Ginobili among the best. However, long before the first debuts of Pepe Sánchez and Rubén Wolkowyski, there was a compatriot who may have been in a legendary franchise.
It was in the late 1940s, when the NBA was just in its early years. The interested team, the Minneapolis Lakers, who had been champions in 1947/48. The player, nothing more and nothing less than Oscar Furlong, the first great Argentine star.
At the Olympic Games in London in 1948, the team was one step away from beating the United States, then champion of the tournament, by falling by only 59 to 57 on the final. That meeting gave the inmate the visibility necessary for an American team to notice his qualities and the accolades he had garnered in the competition. So good was his homework that rival coach Omar Browning later commented that “he was one of the best players I ever saw.”
The Lakers offer was $ 10,000 for six months. However, rejection came from Furlong. “I rejected the offer of a contract as something natural, it did not interest me. We had a more lyrical thought, but they were other times ”, he later commented, according to the book El oro y el aro, by Germán Beder and Alejandro Pérez.
In addition, he showed his more amateur side: “Neither the NBA was what it is now, nor did I have in my head the possibility of living off basketball. I played because I liked it, nothing more ”.
Along the same lines, he also rejected the offers of the Baltimore Bullets and Philadelphia Warriors, while he was the first Argentine player in the NCAA, college basketball, when he arrived in 1953 at Southern Methodist University.