Banchero: Let’s Face It, Italy was Just a Plan B

September 12 19:00 2023
Paolo Banchero kept his Italian fans on their toes for months, not revealing if he’d pick team Italy or team USA. But let’s be realistic: A clear choice had already been made.

NBA’s rookie of the year Paolo Napoleon James Banchero gave proof of stellar leadership qualities in his first season in the league. With his determination, size, and exceptional skill set, the Seattle-born power-forward has the potential to become a household name in the basketball world. (

The Italian-American rookie avoided the media and their queries at the end of the season, leaving many in the doubt: Will he opt for team USA or pick team Italy as he had said in the past?

“The support has been incredible,” Banchero told the Italian Consul Fabrizio De Michele in Brooklyn before his last on the road game of the season. “All year long on social media, in person, at the games, in Orlando, in every arena I go to, I see Italian flags.”

As Italian sportscaster Valeria Rubino said on and Corriere della Sera, Banchero had been avoiding the fateful question about wearing the Italian jersey or not since the beginning of his first NBA season. In October 2022, he said he was “just focused on the Magic”.

In November, he stated his choice will depend on two factors: How he will feel mentally and physically. “Playing at the world championships is not something you can take lightly. The World Cup is as competitive as the NBA or even more. Nations battle over a title; you can’t go halfway in there. If I will feel good after the season it is more likely I will play with Italy,” he told VSport.

Despite his promise to reveal his national team of choice by the end of the season, he chose to avoid the media, especially Italian journalists. Truth is, Banchero in the end chose to play for a national team. Just not the Italian one.

To be honest, we all think he had already decided months prior.

“What if, having noticed to definitely have what it takes to become part of the American Dream team, he has decided not to miss this opportunity and now he’s in the uncomfortable situation of not knowing what’s the least painful way to give his Italian fans this big disappointment?” Valeria Rubino wrote in April.

She was right. Banchero is American, he grew up with the dream of playing for team USA. A team for which his mother used to play. He had a poster on that team in his garage growing up.

At first, the dream might have looked too big to become reality. Then, his immense talent made it seem more and more achievable. Who could blame a young talent for wanting to be part of the national team of the country where he was born? Italy, let’s face it, was just a plan B.

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