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NBA Fan Gets First Taste of Spain’s Pro-Basketball

The writer, a study abroad student, discovered the focused fans and intense play of the other Real Madrid
Noah Weber
Real Madrid basketball star Mario Hezonja during a January game at WiZink Center in Madrid

In a city that is known for its rich culture and intense love for football, there is a different sport that is captivating audiences: Real Madrid Basketball. For Americans like myself, who are used to the spectacle of NBA basketball in the United States, attending a Real Madrid game felt like a breath of fresh air.  

As an avid American basketball fan, coming abroad to Madrid I was sad to leave the NBA (National Basketball Association) behind. With the six-hour-plus time difference, I would have had to stay up all night to watch these games. Instead, I decided to see what European basketball had to offer. I did not know what to expect attending a Real Madrid basketball game, but now I have a growing love for European basketball and the culture that surrounds it.  

The WiZink Center is home to Real Madrid, with a capacity of 16,000, according to their website. With people hounding over the court, the atmosphere feels more similar to an American college environment than a professional basketball game. There is non-stop chanting, and minimal distractions from the game. Rather than the typical bright screens and blaring music at NBA games, fans are greeted by banging instruments and traditions. I quickly found myself joining the crowd as they yelled out “Hala Madrid!” over and over again.  

The stark difference between the Real Madrid game and an NBA game is the product. Games in the NBA feel like a show with the celebrities that are sitting courtside, the various activities co-occurring during the game, and the exciting halftime shows. At WiZink, all eyes are on the game itself. The fans are locked in to their team and the game from the second they sit down. Some fans are well-dressed, others sport their team’s colors, but all come together to cheer on Real Madrid.  

The actual style of play is also very different. I was curious as to what the spectators had to say about it. Many people I spoke to at the stadium even said European basketball is a completely different game from the NBA. Instead of typical isolation basketball which has taken over the NBA, Real Madrid has impressive ball movement and cutting, similar to American high school basketball. This creates a final product that is lower-scoring and more intense. 

This play style does not take away from the talent on the court. Real Madrid currently boasts many ex-NBA players, graduates of American Division 1 basketball and impressive home grown talent. Superstars like Facundo Campazzo and Mario Hezonja are leading the charge for the first-place team.  

I am not quite ready to leave the NBA behind, but I most certainly am aboard the Real Madrid basketball train. Although the football teams in Madrid are the stars of the show, Real Madrid basketball deserves a piece of the attention on the global scale as they continue to dominate the Euro League each year. There is one thing for certain, the team has a strong fanbase at home — and they just added one more.  

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