FIBA WORLD CUP
Jorge Gutiérrez: “The ‘12 Warriors’ are all of us”
The 34-year-old former NBA point guard spoke to AS after his side’s elimination from the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Mexico were eliminated from the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Saturday despite a 93-80 win over Jordan, bringing the World Cup careers of two of its biggest stars to a close.
Orlando Méndez will return to international retirement, having been coaxed back for this tournament. It is also thought that Jorge Gutiérrez, the only player in the Mexican squad with NBA experience, may also have played his last game for the national team.
Gutiérrez enjoyed three years in the NBA with with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets and continues to star for Libertadores de Querétaro. This tournament was billed as his last hoorah but he has had precious little game time at the World Cup, playing just eight minutes in their most recent fixture.
Speaking to AS after his side’s elimination was confirmed, Gutiérrez reflected on his experience at the World Cup and his place in the pantheon of Mexican basketball greats.
After three consecutive defeats, how did you keep the confidence going into the final game?
“The team is fine, they are in good spirits. A victory fixes many things. After three tough defeats that is what characterizes us every time; always being united. And that is very good for us because we are focused on the last game.”
Do you think you deserved more playing time in this World Cup?
“One always has to be professional. I’ll be ready when the coach calls my name. I would like to play more, like every competitor, but I will be ready whenever it’s required.”
After two World Cups and playing in the NBA, you rank among the Mexican greats like Ayón, Raga, ‘Mano Santa’ and Nájera. Are you satisfied with your career?
“It is an honor to have me in that group of legendary players. I am very happy to be a child who grew up in a neighborhood in Chihuahua and got to do what I did.
“I am happy for myself, for my family, for my country. It is an honor to be considered alongside those names.”
How did this World Cup compare to 2014?
“It’s a World Cup! There are many similarities because you play against the best there is. That is, for me, something great, because a competitor always wants to play against the best.
“The difference is that this time I had more experience, and I could approach the games a little differently, with more confidence. At the end of the day, it is the best-played basketball in the world. It’s an honor to be here and be a part of this.”
What’s next for you? Are you still in contention for the national team?
“I haven’t even thought about that, I just want to enjoy the rest of the World Cup. Enjoy this - which is most likely my last World Cup - so I’m just focused on that.”
Are the next generation ready to take over from the ‘12 Warriors’ of 2014?
“We are all the ‘12 Warriors’. We are not just those who played ten years ago. It is not something unique; being a warrior. I think the new generation look very strong. There is a good future, a solid future. You just have to keep working.”