NBA star hovers over EuroBasket: Wagner Festival conjures up the spirit of Nowitzki

NBA star hovers over EuroBasket
Wagner Festival evokes the spirit of Nowitzki

Such a performance has not been seen by a German national player for a long time. The 21-year-old Franz Wagner enraptured the basketball world at the European Championships – and reminded him of the greatest basketball player Germany has ever had.

At times it had the impression that Franz Wagner was floating through the arena. With his arms stretched out to the side as wings, the NBA professional let himself be carried by the completely euphoric fans in the Cologne Arena. This scene was repeated again and again in the basketball spectacle against Lithuania, in which Wagner, who had just turned 21 a few days before the European Championships, looked like the young Dirk Nowitzki in the national jersey. “The guy is mentally ill, you just have to say it like that,” said veteran Johannes Thiemann of the Orlando Magic’s high-flyer after his 32-point gala against the co-favorites at the European Championships.

Wagner showed the full package of his skills against Lithuania. Born in Berlin, he scored from the middle distance, attacked the ring and was also successful from the line of three. At the back he shocked the Lithuanian giants with a monster block and didn’t shy away from the dirty work in the intense duels under the basket. In short: Wagner showed everything a world-class player needs to be able to do.

“What Franz did today was unbelievable,” praised captain Dennis Schröder. “He’s very, very young but how he can create his own throw and how he can help the team on defense is strong,” said the point guard. “If he continues like this, he will be a big one.”

“It was awesome”

Superstar Nowitzki, with whom Wagner was inevitably compared after his super performance, had already predicted this in the run-up to the European Championship, which has been so successful for the German team so far. “He’s a great all-round player and that’s at his age,” said the 44-year-old, who follows the European Championship closely as a tournament ambassador. “It will bring us a lot of fun in the years to come.”

The praised one was almost a bit embarrassed by all the positive comments. Surprisingly calm and matter-of-fact, Wagner appeared in front of the cameras after only his eighth international match. “Everyone who has done sport knows it. If you follow your instincts, then everything goes a little easier,” analyzed Wagner, who scored an average of 19.3 points in the previous three games.

“It was awesome, that was a lot of fun” was the most euphoric thing Wagner could elicit. The mischievous smile that kept darting across his face showed that the day in Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, which was again sold out with 18,017 spectators, was a very special one for him.

The return home

But Wagner and Co. don’t want to be satisfied with that. With the showdown against defending champion Slovenia with NBA superstar Luka Doncic this Tuesday (8.30 p.m. / Magentasport and in the live ticker) and the preliminary round against Hungary on Wednesday, there are still two games in Cologne, which has long been crazy about basketball. But the German team has long been looking to Berlin, where the final round will be held on Saturday.

“I’m from Berlin, haven’t played there for three years now, so it’s super cool to come back as a national player and play there,” Wagner said before traveling to his hometown. There, too, he wants to float through the hall like the young Nowitzki and help win the first medal in 17 years.

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