Fidel Castro and his love for basketball, 1959-1972

Fidel Castro was an accomplished high-school athlete, who was named Havana's outstanding high school athlete in 1943–44. He excelled in track and field (in the high jump and middle-distance running), baseball, basketball (playing for the University of Havana's freshman team), and table tennis.

According to many accounts, his primary sport as a schoolboy was basketball. He stood 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 tall, and told biographer Tad Szulc that the anticipation, speed and dexterity required for basketball were closest to the skills required for revolution.

In the years following the revolution, Castro strongly advocated making sports accessible to all. Its underlying foundation was an echo of Castro's idea that sport should be "the right of the people", not just the wealthier sections of society. This was accompanied by a continued argument for amateurism, culminating in the outlawing of professionalism in Cuban sports.

According to Juan Sanchez, a former Castro aide: “Fidel never hesitated to organize sports. Players will then split into two teams: red and blue. Obviously everyone played for Fidel – for him losing the game was out of the question.

Castro continued to play basketball regularly, both privately and during official state visits around the world. He eventually retired from the game in 1982 at the age of 56 after breaking his toe in a particularly heated match.

For Cuba, basketball really took off in 1970 when the team placed third at the University Games, then defeated the US team at the Pan American Games in 1971 and won a bronze medal at the Olympics the following year.

In 1973, the team came in second place at the Peruvian World Festival and the following year advanced to fourth place at the Basketball World Championship in Puerto Rico.

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