Basketball. Bordelet Elie Okubo, champion of France with Asfel: “enormous emotions”

How have you been feeling since that crazy night last Saturday, when you won your first league title after that fifth game of sheer madness?

I can define it as: massive emotions! I’ve been coming down little by little under stress since Saturday, but it was a really crazy evening, with an emotional lift that isn’t really recommended for heart patients (laughs). I think it was one of the toughest matches I’ve had in my young career so far. The tension was at its peak, the room was very noisy, and the match was an extremely intense duel. We managed to keep our title, and that title really is a great achievement for us. We searched for it with our guts, and gave 110% to win the third consecutive ASVEL title. We are making history, and I am so proud to be a part of this huge basketball moment. This kind of experience, from match five where everything is decided in this meeting, with a lot of suspense, only happens once in a player’s career. It’s exceptional, this scenario is insane.

Moreover, you were elected as the best player in this finals, with a very complete match 5, 20 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds…

Yes, I am happy, but this is not important to me, because the champion’s cup is above everything. The MVP title is a kind of “bonus”. Win the championship title, give it your all with your teammates, live and participate in a human adventure that brought us to the top of the championship, that’s above all. It is something so unique and powerful that we will never forget it. We’ve had a very tough season, with ups and downs, but we were able to distance ourselves to win the title in the final at home, against molten Astrobel. This is the best. Coming together and jumping into each other’s arms and lifting the cup is an incredible feeling. We wake up every day for it, and it really is worth it.

How exactly did you feel when you raised the cup?

My first impression to be honest with you is that I didn’t know the cup was so heavy (laughs)! It really surprised me that it was pretty heavy, but it’s a great prize. I could still see my teammate David Leighty who tried to hold the trophy at arm’s length, but he was so tired after the game that he couldn’t! I was on cloud nine, and I was so happy to be able to share this moment with my family who support me all the time, it was so important to me that they were there to share this moment with me. These are memories of a lifetime, memories etched in my memory forever.

Asfel players celebrate their title.

Jean-Philippe Ciazek/AFP

Think you had your best career season?

I don’t know, because the most important thing for me is to learn and improve year after year. I’m still young, I still have a lot of room for improvement, and I think I’ve learned a lot since I got to Asphalt. Every season is different, and I’m really happy to have had an entire season, although at some point my shoulder injury slowed down a bit. We’ve had great moments, ups and downs in the Euroleague, but I will keep very good memories of the 2021-2022 exercise and keep learning, because that’s my personality type. I never feel satisfied, I always want more.

We’ve seen you talk a lot this season with your teammates, and he’s shown a dimension of vocal leader we haven’t seen before…

I’ve learned a lot from that aspect this season, that’s for sure. I’ve spoken with team veterans, David Laity, and Charles Kahudi, as well as Tony Parker who has asked me to be a complete captain, not just in-game. I’m comfortable with the responsibilities, and I’m not afraid of all that and what it entails. I’m confident, and as the captain of a team that was aiming for the title, I had to set an example and lead the way in every sense of the word. I had to be aggressive and create for the whole team in my position as leader, also managing the rhythm and helping the group cohesion.

We’ve seen a lot during the season close to Tony Parker, but also during the title celebrations, all smiles are with you. Can you talk about your relationship with him?

Tony, he’s a friend, we’ve known each other for several years, someone who fully supports the players, gives advice and lives basketball to the fullest all the time. We talked a lot during the season, and he totally trusted me, and it was very important to feel that. When you know that the boss supports you, that he is fighting for his group so that we are in the best conditions but also so that we continue to learn, that’s a really very interesting context. He is a legend in basketball, he always has the advice to give and I learned a lot from his contact.

What are the keys to Asfeel’s success this season, in your opinion?

I think there are three important elements to our success this season. The first is the winning culture for this club, which was a double and wanted to make history with a treble. The club’s DNA is based on victory, and we are always in that state of mind, as it has been the stronghold of French basketball for a few years now. Being a champion is a situation that must be defended all the time against any opponent. The second key is to resolve the group to always want to move forward and want to do great things. The third key is our unity. The assembly was welded, unified, and always going in the same direction. The group of players is really great, and we are all really happy to win this title together.

24 hours into your title, now you’re with the Blues in training, given the 2023 World Cup qualification period. You didn’t have time to breathe!

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