It's still the middle of summer time. The kids are still out of school, the highs are often still over 90 degrees locally, and the Wizards are still a couple months away from playing preseason games. That makes this time a good time to go on vacation.
I've always wanted to tour Europe, but I've had to save up for awhile. After a couple years, I finally made vacation plans in the Spring to go to there, where I'll be in the Netherlands and Belgium most of the time. Both countries are well known for brewing quality beer and have some picturesque cities like Amsterdam and Brussels.
Though basketball is popular in much of Europe, neither the Dutch or Belgians have highly ranked national teams. Soccer, or football is king here, and they're damn good at it. The Belgian men's national soccer team is ranked third while the Dutch team is fifth even after losing to Team USA at home last June in shocking fashion. With the local teams, it's teams like AFC Ajax or R.S.C. Anderlecht that are the most popular, unlike NFL or NBA teams in most American cities.
I like talking about basketball a lot, so that may make things a bit harder for me when it comes to striking up a conversation. But after looking at things a bit deeper, both the Netherlands and Belgium have been more relevant to the sport than at first glance. Here are some cool facts on basketball in both countries.
Cool facts about basketball in the Netherlands
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- Six NBA players were born in the Netherlands. However, no one was born in Amsterdam.
- Rik Smits is the most notable Dutch player in relatively recent memory. The 7'4 center played from 1988-2000 for the Indiana Pacers and was an All-Star in the 1997-98 season. He scored in double digits every season he was in the league as well and was a consistent presence for Indy alongside Reggie Miller. Needless to say, Smits is a legend for their franchise, and likely for many Dutch basketball players.
- Smits isn't the only Dutchman to play in the NBA recently. Francisco Elson played a decade in the Association from 2003-2012, including for the Denver Nuggets from 2003-2006 and the San Antonio Spurs from 2006-2008 where he won a title in 2007. Dan Gadzuric played in the NBA from 2002-2012, mostly with the Milwaukee Bucks.
- Swen Nater is the only player to lead in rebounding in both the NBA and ABA. After a stellar college career at UCLA, he was the 1973-74 ABA Rookie of the Year when he played for the Virginia Squires and San Antonio Spurs.
- The Dutch men's wheelchair basketball team has won six medals in the Paralympics, fifth among all countries. They won the Gold Medal in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
- The Dutch women's wheelchair basketball team won the Paralympic bronze medal in the 2012 London games.
Cool facts about basketball in Belgium
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- Mystics forward Emma Meesseman is from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of the country. As you might expect, she rooted pretty hard for the soccer team last year in the World Cup against Team USA (which the Americans lost) when they met in an elimination game. Boooooo!
The best basketball fact about the Netherlands and Belgium
The best fact about basketball in the Netherlands and Belgium in my opinion is this. Wizards fans aren't just in the D.C. area or the United States. We're worldwide.
One of our community regulars, Dutch Hoopfan lives in the Netherlands. And Jules, another Dutchman who now lives in Belgium, went on a trans-Atlantic flight to watch Game 3 of the Wizards vs. Raptors series. Talk about a journey to watch your favorite team.
Open question: What cool basketball facts do you have about your summer vacation destinations?
That's enough from me talking about where I'm heading off to, and I just skimmed the surface on basketball in these countries.
But now I'll ask you all a question. What cool basketball factoids do you have on your summer vacation destinations? It can be other countries or cities in the U.S. Look forward to your responses.