When you think basketball and Malaga, the first name that comes to mind is Unicaja captain Berni Rodriguez. Born in Malaga and raised at Unicaja, Rodriguez is much more than a player for the city’s loyal fans. Rodriguez made his Unicaja first team debut in 1999 - right after winning the gold medal at the World Junior Championships with Spain that summer - and is in his 12th season with the team. He has helped Unicaja to win the Spanish League, the Spanish King's Cup, the Korac Cup and reach the Euroleague Final Four in 2007. Rodriguez has also helped Spain win gold medals in European and World Championships to become a living legend for the Unicaja faithful. Fans around Europe had the chance to get in touch with Berni and we collected the best questions for this edition of Fan Mail. He loves his city and playing for his club after so many years. "Malaga is a great place to live, has a lot to offer - and it is my city. Everything has been very natural, my contracts have overlapped several times and I always had the option to stay in Unicaja," Rodriguez told a Russian fan. "At some point I had the chance to search for other options, but in the end, the best option for me has always been staying in Malaga."
Hello Berni. You changed two Euroleague games already this season coming from the bench. The other two you started. What do you prefer?
Roy Weinberg, Israel
"Thank you, Roy. I believe that giving too much importance to being in the starting five is an old thought, it belongs to the past. In my opinion, it is much more important to see which five players finish the game. So answering your question, it is the same to me to start a game or to come off the bench."
Hola Berni! Have you ever considered becoming a coach after retiring? Gracias,
Enrique Rodriguez, Spain
"Hello Enrique. Being perfectly honest, I haven't even thought about it. I know I would like to stay in basketball once I stop playing. I don't know in what way, but I would love to keep working in basketball because I really love it."
Berni, what would you say to convince the best Euroleague players to come play in Malaga with Unicaja? Thanks.
Fernando Gutierrez, Spain
"Good question, Fernando. First of all, because Unicaja is a great, exciting basketball project. Of course, Malaga is a great place to live, it is an attractive place to live. We have great fans and basketball tradition, so there are plenty of reasons for any good Euroleague players to consider Unicaja and our city, Malaga."
Hey Berni! I saw you on a Spanish TV quiz with Jorge Garbajosa the other day. How was the experience and how do you get along with Jorge?
Manuel Fernandez, Spain
"Thanks! First of all, I get along very, very well with Jorge, on and off the court. We are very good friends and spend a lot of time together. As for the TV Show, Pasapalabra, it was a very cool experience. It was something very different from what I am used to, too. We enjoyed it a lot - we were invited by its host, Christian Galvez, who is a friend of ours!"
Hello Mr. Rodriguez, I would like to ask you about the 2007 Final Four in my city. How was the experience for you? Thank you and good luck!
Tassos Ntouskas, Athens
"Thanks for your question. It is one of my favorite basketball memories. There was an incredible basketball celebration at the 2007 Final Four and I have great memories from that. Unfortunately, we could not beat CSKA in the semifinals, but still managed to beat Tau in the third place game. Unicaja lived up to the moment, bringing in our families, and that made it even more special. It was a fantastic experience."
Hi Berni! This is Mario from Italy. Maybe it is well-known but me and my friends wonder why you touch your ear after a three-pointer? Thanks a lot!
Mario Cimbrellini, Siena
"[Llaughing] I have to go way, way back to explain it! When I started to date my wife, it was a way to dedicate to her the shot. That started a long time ago and has become an internal joke between us. And it has been like that ever since I started doing it, something fun to do."
Berni, after so many years in the Euroleague, what do you like about the competitions and which are your favorite courts to visit?
Gal Ferber, Israel
"Hello Gal. There are plenty of reasons to like the Euroleague - you face the best players and the best teams. That is the main reason it is a great competition. As for my favorite courts, playing the Final Four at OAKA in 2007 with a full-house was amazing. It is also really exciting to play in Tel Aviv against Maccabi or in Belgrade against Partizan, places with a great basketball atmospheres. I prefer to play in front of sellout crowd against us than in an empty arena."
Hello Berni, all the way from the United Kingdom. We follow Joel Freeland with a lot of interest. What do you think about Joel, is he already the best big man in Europe? Good luck to you and Unicaja!
Simon Baker, Nottingham, UK
"Thank you, Simon. Well, I can't say if he is the best big man in Europe, but he’s definitely one of the best, no doubt about it. The best part is that Joel's dominance has just started. He started to play basketball a bit late and his room for improvement is very, very big. We still have to wait to see the best Joel Freeland - even though he has played unbelievably well this season! The best is yet to come for Joel, I am sure of that."
Hello Berni from Russia! It is not easy to see a player being in a club for so long. What is the secret to keeping you in Malaga and why didn't you try to play somewhere else? See you in Moscow this week!
Dimitry Sharifyanov, CSKA fan, Moscow
"Thanks, Dimitry! Well, first of all and like I said before, Malaga is a great place to live, has a lot to offer - and it is my city. Everything has been very natural, my contracts have overlapped several times and I always had the option to stay in Unicaja. I reached quick agreements to stay in the club even before my contracts expired. At some point I had the chance to search for other options, but in the end, the best option for me has always been staying in Malaga."