Eight Days of Gdansk, November 2: Marcin Gortat on Polish basketball, and prospects for a game in Tricity.

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A native of Łódź in Poland, Marcin Gortat currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. This is Gortat’s 13th season in the NBA, and in this essay from 2016, he tells his own basketball story and describes the sport’s progress in Poland.

How We Play Basketball in Poland, by Marcin Gortat (The Players’ Tribune)

… The state of basketball in Poland right now is … well, it’s not great.

Understand, in Poland we don’t have four or five guys making it to the NBA every year like in France or Spain. I’m the fourth Polish guy to ever make it to the NBA, and given the state of our national-team program, there probably won’t be another one for a long time.

That’s because we don’t really have a program to teach the game to young kids. I’ve been doing my best to help, with youth camps and an initiative that sends promising young players to America to play AAU ball, and then brings them back to Poland to play for the national team. But it will be a few more years until the first group of players completes the program.

It wasn’t always this way. We used to be better. Poland used to love basketball. In the ’60s and ’70s our national team played in almost every Olympics, and we were competitive. But since 1984, the year I was born, Poland hasn’t qualified once for the Games.

There was even a time when NBA games were on TV in Poland. After watching Michael Jordan, Grant Hill and Shaq, kids would want to go outside and play street ball. But when basketball left public TV due to something called the Broadcasting Act of 1992, that’s when everything started to really fall apart.

Gortat surely is the best male basketball player from Poland. The finest female player might have been the late Margo Dydek, who was 7′ 2″ and played in the WNBA prior to her untimely death in 2011.

The Confidentials enjoy their off-season travel, and this has meant the occasional opportunity to watch basketball games in Europe, first in Bamberg and most recently in Porto, Portugal in February.

The Polish cities of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia are known collectively as Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a combined metropolitan population well north of 1,000,000.

Sopot lies between Gdansk and Gdynia.

Tricity supports two teams in the Polish Basketball League, which has existed in various forms since the late 1940s: Asseco Gdynia and Trefl Sopot. Ironically, the primary indoor arena in Tricity is located within the boundaries of Sopot, which lies between Gdansk and Gdynia; holding 15,000 spectators, the home of Trefl Sopot is the largest arena in the league even though Sopot itself has a population of only 40,000.

Perusing the schedules in advance of our departure, I see there are three possibilities for seeing a game, with two dates for Asseco Gdynia and one for Trefl Sopot.

We’ll do at least one of them, and I’ll tell you about it once we’re back home. If there is beer and kielbasa, that’s even better.

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