Italy’s Luigi Datome retires, gets standing ovation in final game
MANILA, Philippines–Italy’s final game in the Fiba World Cup also served as the curtain call for one of its most renowned players in Luigi Datome.
Datome wrapped up his national team career in defeat, falling short to Luka Doncic and Slovenia, 89-85, in a battle for seventh place on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena, but not before being given a chance to receive a standing ovation.
The Italian big man was subbed out for the last time with 3:26 to go in the fourth quarter, prompting players from both teams to stop and pay their respects to the veteran who had notable stints with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA and Turkish side Fenerbahce.
Sempre Gigi 💔
— FIBA EuroBasket (@EuroBasket) September 9, 2023
“It’s one of the incredible kind gestures I received this summer,” Datome later said after grabbing two rebounds in 10 minutes for Italy. “I thank the fans for the applause and to the opponents for stopping the game to show respect.
“I feel lucky, humbled, grateful and blessed because I felt all the kind words that I get,” he added.
Datome has been a fixture for The Azzurri, particularly on the continental side with seven Eurobasket stints, and helped his nation play in the last two editions of the World Cup.
His NBA stint with the Pistons and later the Boston Celtics lasted just three years, but developed a decorated career in Europe with three titles each in the Italian and Turkish league and a Euroleague title in 2017 with Fenerbahce.
Italy reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1998 after winning four of five games in the first two rounds, before being knocked out by the United States.
“As a captain, I’m proud of this team for what we did. I think we showed that we could compete at the highest level,” said Datome.
“Only with the United States, we couldn’t compete because I think they were way better than us. But we competed with Dominicana (Dominican Republic), with Serbia, with Latvia, with Slovenia, with many good teams.”