For the first time ever, Germany’s national basketball team are world champions. For many this came unexpectedly. Dennis Schröder, captain and leader of the team, played a major role in this success story.
After Dirk Nowitzki, Schröder is Germany’s most popular basketballer and recently signed with the Toronto Raptors. He was made captain of Germany for the FIBA World Cup by coach Gordon Herbert. During the tournament his role lay in creating for his teammates and setting the tone on the defensive end. In the final against Serbia, Schröder also made the game-winning basket 21 seconds from the end, leading Germany to victory.
Schröder was born in Braunschweig, Germany. This medieval town of 250,000 inhabitants is renowned for its science and research, not basketball. But it was here where it all began for Schröder. He was discovered playing basketball in Braunschweig’s Prince-Albrecht Park. From humble beginnings, he was born and raised by a Gambian mother and native German father.
Schröder would dribble his basketball to school every day. He also showed talent in football, table tennis and inline skating from an early age, but it was basketball that had his heart. He participated at national German basketball competitions from the age of 13. However, at one competition, a junior coach labelled Schröder as too small to play basketball and asserted he lacked the determination to play basketball on a professional level.
But the trials and tribulations didn’t stop there for him. When he was 15 years old, tragedy struck. Schröder’s father, who had supported him and his basketball dreams, suddenly passed away. He had promised his father he would focus on basketball just the week prior. So after the death of his father, he dedicated his entire life to basketball and never looked back.
Schröder received his first contract by the Braunschweig Basketball Lions and represented Germany at the U19 and U20 level. As fate had it, he eventually made it to the NBA. He played for several teams including the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James famously vouched for Schröder to the Lakers before he joined.
Despite his successes in the NBA, Schröder’s affection for his father’s native Germany has never wavered. He still labels the German national basketball team as the best team he has ever played on because of their “team chemistry”. A chemistry created by the coaches, right down to the players, staff, and most importantly the fans.
However, Schröder’s achievements did not prevent him from being subject to racial abuse as a child, being a person of colour growing up in Germany. When growing up, kids at school would ask him why his skin was so dark and dirty. During basketball practise, opposition kids would often verbally attack him, calling him the ugly “n-word”. But in his own words all of these incidents only made him stronger.
Regarding his future plans, Schröder already has a clear vision. He intends to return to his childhood town of Braunschweig and end his basketball career where it all started. He’s also the majority owner of his childhood club, Braunschweig Lions, and aspires for them to lift the German Premier League title.
But despite all his successes, Schröder’s biggest asset remains his family, who have always played a major role in his life and help him Schröder play his role on the court. His mother taught him and his siblings the importance of family. He’s a father, husband, brother, and son above all else. He performs on the court because of his support system off the court. Even when he hit the game-winning basket against Serbia in the World Cup final, his mind immediately went back to his beloved father. A quite beautiful tribute to him.