July 6, 2020

Fernando Martín, 30 years of the deadly accident of the first basketball myth

The Madrid joined the M-30 at high speed, lost control of his Lancia Thema, crossed several lanes and hit another car

The news shocked Spanish society. It was 3:20 p.m. on December 3, 1989. Real Madrid played an ACB match against Zaragoza. Fernando Martín had not played for tendonitis for 15 days, but he was summoned for the match. Shortly after, the first rumors arose that there had been a terrible accident on the road. In the Sports Palace was the entire squad except Martin and Quique Villalobos, but shortly after the escort arrived so that the protagonist was inevitably Fernando. Although the current media did not exist – without the internet, without social networks and with very few mobile phones in the market -, the news came soon. The pivot that marked an era was dead. María Escario suspended the retransmission of a handball game to break the news. Fernando Martín was driving along the National II (Barcelona road) and joined the M-30 at high speed. When trying to dodge a raft of water, he lost control of his Lancia Thema and the vehicle crossed several lanes, jumped the median and hit the Opel Kaddet of Ricardo Delgado, who was seriously injured but could save his life. Martín was transferred to Ramón and Cajal died during the transfer.

It was a blow to everyone. Martin was a symbol. Race player, competitive until exhaustion and with an imposing physique. His powerful 2.05 meters made him dominate the area like nobody else. And he was not afraid. Mythical were his battles with Barça Audie Norris, who earned his respect on and off the court. The Spanish League was too small for Martín and decided to make the jump to the NBA, something that no Spanish had done so far. The best league in the world was much farther than it is now. But Martin accepted the challenge proposed by the Portland Trail Blazers. He was signed as a luxury substitute but it was difficult to adapt. A season passed, in which he played an average of six minutes in the 24 games he was lined up. It was the league of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Abdul Jabbar, a very physical and technical league, but Fernando had no luck with either the coach or the team. A year later he returned to Real Madrid, becoming a more technical and equally competitive player but with the feeling that if he had been left, he could have done many more things. For this reason, he focused on his Real Madrid and on improving and learning. And always with humility ahead: “I don't believe in myths or idols. the stimulus and example each one has ”. Suspicious of his intimacy, with a hard and serious image, his friends defined him as a close and fun person. The pink press was already aware of their relationships and was responsible for airing their courtship with Ana Obregón.

Martín was born in 1962 and his health problems were what led him to practice handball first and then. He had a problem with one of the heart valves and doctors recommended that he do physical activity. With 16 years he entered the quarry of the Students and with 19 he was undisputed holder. At that time, he crossed Real Madrid on his way that, incidentally, also signed his brother Antonio. He debuted in the Club World Cup and scored 50 points against the champion of Australia. With Madrid he won four Leagues and two Cups and only what would later be his partner Drazen Petrovic prevented him from winning the European Cup. With the selection he won two silver medals: at the European Nantes in 1983 and at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Despite losing the final against the United States, his good work made the scouts of the NBA they chose in position 38 of the Draft. But the circumstances caused him not to travel to the US until 1986. The injuries and lack of confidence of the coach made him end up returning to Spain. That was the beginning of his titanic struggles with Norris and his reunion with Petrovic, with which he won the Recopa in 1989 thanks to the 62 points of the forward. Petrovic packed for, precisely, Portland and Martin stayed as a great reference for the team, which also included Romay, Iturriaga, José Luis Llorente or Corbalán. At 27, he was at the best of his career. Everyone was waiting for him at the Sports Palace but he never arrived.

The first myth of basketball lost its life in a sigh, but its legend is still alive. Rudy Fernández honored him in the 2010 star game by wearing his shirt in the math contest. In Real Madrid he retired the number 10 shirt, the only one so far despite the fact that myths such as Petrovic, Sabonis, Herreros or Corbalán have passed through the club.

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