Under coach Pepu Hernandez, Spain achieved their greatest ever basketball success in September 2006, when they won the World Cup in Japan for the first time.
When the team arrived back in Madrid at midnight they were taken to the Plaza de Castilla through streets lined with cheering fans. It is estimated that around 100,000 fans turned out to applaud them and celebrate the remarkable feat.
Spain, whose previous best performance was winning the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics, beat Greece 70-47 in the final despite being without their most inspirational player Pau Gasol, who had broken a bone in his foot in the semi-final victory over Argentina.
Even without him, the Spanish rolled on to victory with superb individual performances from Jorge Garbajosa, Juan Carlos Navarro, captain Carlos Jimenez, Felipe Reyes and Marc Gasol, Pau's 21-year-old brother. The players wore a T-shirt which read ‘Pau tambien juega’ (Pau is also playing) as they entered the court before the game. Garbajosa and Navarro led the scoring with 20 points each, while Jimenez was immense on the boards and in defence.
Jose Luis Saez, President of the Spanish Federation, said: “This is the greatest basketball lesson I have ever seen. It’s a lesson of pride, rage and team effort. Everybody thought that without Gasol, we had no chance, but Spain has proved it has a team. I just want the Spanish people to enjoy this moment.”
Though he did not play, Pau Gasol was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament after averaging better than 21 points and nine rebounds. And Jorge Garbajosa also made the all-tournament team.