Luis Scola, one of the most respected and acclaimed basketball players in the 21st century, has retired at the age of 41, finishing a professional career that spanned more than two decades. Scola was one of the first EuroLeague superstars when the competition started in 2000. He helped Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz reach three consecutive EuroLeague Final Fours from 2005 to 2007, making it to the championship game in 2005. Scola reached another EuroLeague Finals with Baskonia in 2001, losing against Kinder Bologna on a memorable five-game playoffs series.
"It wasn't really difficult to stop playing because I think it was a natural choice for me," Scola said on Wednesday in a press conference announcing his new role as CEO for Pallacanestro Varese of Italy. "My body was not reacting the same way and each month was worse than the previous one, and I had to do more things to play at the level I like. This is why it was a natural choice for me to stop playing. I feel quiet about not playing anymore because it was difficult. When it came to games and competing, it was not a problem, but going day by day, every week, was difficult."
Scola was chosen to the All-EuroLeague First Team in 2006 and 007, making it to the All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2005. He was also elected as MVP of the Month in December 2006. He returned to the EuroLeague in the 2019-20 campaign to play for AX Armani Exchange Milan. Scola was briefly the EuroLeague's all-time top scorer, and was the first player to reach 2,000 points in the competition. In 172 EuroLeague career games with Baskonia and Milan, he averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds. Scola also played for Ferrocarril Oeste of his native Argentina, Gijon Baloncesto of Spain, Houston, Phoenix, Indiana, Toronto, Brooklyn of the NBA, as well as for Shanxi Brave Dragons and Shanghai Sharks of China before joining Pallacanestro Varese, where he played his final season and will continue linked to basketball as the club's CEO.
He holds the record for most appearances with the Argentinean national team, 169. Scola helped his national team win as many as 16 medals in senior tournaments. He took part in five Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in Athens 2004 and a bronze at Beijing 2008. Scola also led Argentina to respective World Cup medals in 2002 and 2019. He helped his national team win four other gold medals at the 2001 and 2011 FIBA Americas tournaments, the 2019 Panamerican Games, and the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball. He has retired as the second top scorer in World Cup action, 611 points, trailing only Oscar Schmidt (906) of Brazil. Scola ranks fourth in scoring in the Olympic Men's Basketball Tournament (591 points). Only Schmidt (1,093 points), Andrew Gaze (789) and Pau Gasol (649) are ahead of him.
"I haven't stopped playing. In fact, I am playing with the team this season... just kidding!" Scola joked on Wednesday. "I practice every day. I like practicing and surely, at some point, I will play basketball with my kids, the junior team or the first team some day if a player is injured, and I will do it because I like it. I am a basketball player and this is my passion. I cannot do it more at the professional level but you can always play basketball."