Vicente Fernández was a national treasure.
He was so loved that his death caused many people to wonder if the greatest basketball player in Mexico City history had died.
His spectacular play ended amid controversy.
Fernández’s last name is so much a part of Mexico that when his passing was announced the tabloid El Universal ran a special front page: “Vicente Fernández, Bambi, is dead.”
His funeral was a measure of respect as journalists and citizens from his old neighborhood gathered to hold one of Mexico’s most beloved sportsmen.
“Vicente Fernández wasn’t just a legendary basketball player; he was a symbol of Mexico and a good guy,” said Los Angeles-based El Universal sports journalist Jonathan McCleary.
Some might even say the basketball player possessed an extraordinary character. Fernandez was known for his lively sense of humor, enthusiasm for young talent, and ability to speak fluent English.
Fernández playing for the Mexican national basketball team in Los Angeles, 1988. Photograph: AP
Throughout his impressive career, he was a trailblazer.
As a teenager, he was approached by one of his guards in Mexico City who asked him if he wanted to become a Mexican who could play abroad.
Now, his greatest legacy is the national team, which he helped to win the gold medal at the 1994 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, he left Mexico’s international basketball scene and played at multiple US universities.
He finished his professional career in Paris and Paris Saint-Germain, where he was considered one of the top defenders in the league.
Fernández returned to play in Mexico in 2013 for the reigning World Championship winners, the Caldas Nacional de Porvenir, and won a bronze medal with the team.
His popularity in Mexico continues to this day, with at least nine photos of him selling for more than 1,000 pesos ($71) on social media.