Back in 2012 the basketball world was a lot different than it is today. Dirk Nowitzki was in his prime, Dennis Schroeder was a big talent, but still some years away from the NBA, Lebron James was making new headlines winning titles with the Miami Heat and Luka Doncic was 13 and would sign a 5 year contract with Real Madrid in September of that year. In Frankfurt an era with the Fraport Skyliners had come to an end in 2011 as the first real Skyliner identity figure Pascal Roller (180-G-1976) had retired. His most important numbers as a professional players were staggering as he played 406 BBL games amassing 4,021 points, won the BBL cup in 2000 and German championship in 2004, reached the BBL final in 2005 and 2010 and strapped on the German national jersey 122 times winning the silver medal at the 2005 European Championships and Bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships. In January 2012 he brought together some of his old teammates and faced off against the 2011-2012 Fraport Skyliners losing 85-80 in Basketball City Mainhatten. You know time has flown by when guys like Jimmy Mckinney, Jermario Davidson and rookie Michael Thompson were on the team. Oh and by the way the next Skyliner identity figure Quantez Robertson was still a young buck only in his third professional season. Who would have thought then that Quantez Robertson would still be on the team today now in his 13th season having taken over the reigns from Roller being a Skyliner lifer. The German legend may only have played two years with Tez as he is known by the German basketball community, but he remembers the first weeks in 2009 as if it was yesterday. ‘Tez was very reserved when he came and was very modest. I remember that he observed a lot. I remember the question was what role he would have. Quickly he became that defensive stopper that would get his points with steals and back door cuts. There were no plays designed for him at the beginning. He always let the situation come to him. I didn’t know how long he would stay, but his longevity speaks for him. He must of noticed that the Skyliners was the right place for him. He gave back with consistency in his career’, stressed Pascal Roller. Time definitely has flown quicker for him since he retired than say the years 2001-2011. ‘I think that the years 11-21 have gone by quicker. I had a normal route as a professional player, but since I have been retired many different things have happened. My kids are getting bigger and I have had a job now for 5 years. The last 10 years have really flown by’, said Pascal Roller. It is really hard to believe that Pascal Roller has been retired already more than 10 years.
Let’s fast forward to 2022. I spoke twice to Pascal Roller as his busy schedule interrupted our first chat. It was nice talking to Pascal again. Our paths haven’t crossed too much since he retired. I saw him by chance in down town Frankfurt a few years after he retired and interviewed him at half-time of the Hamburg Towers first organization win in Giessen in 2014 and at the2015 BBL cup weekend in Oldenburg. As a player I had many more dealings with him as interviews were a normal occurrence. I also remember our first meeting in the BCM in pre season in 2004 when Murat Didin was head coach. The world has been struck by COVID which has affected everyone in some way. Even if Pascal Roller isn’t dropping his lethal three pointer on transition on the court anymore, he is still involved with basketball as you can witness his expertise at Magenta Sport during Live basketball telecasts. When he isn’t sporting his million dollar smile on camera, then he is living a normal life in Hamburg working for a business consulting firm. Working life was a big adjustment for all and it wasn’t any different for him. He was bombarded with even more work since the Pandemic hit and was confined to home office. Everybody had their unique experiences with COVID and some more difficult than others, but all in all everybody has gotten positive things out of it. ‘It gave me more time to look at my life. Even if I still had a tight plan, I tried to concentrate on other things that I usually wouldn’t have done’, warned Pascal Roller. He has had a normal day job since retiring with the Fraport Skyliners and at times looks back to his playing days and understands that being an ex player now, his life is a lot different to when he was a player. ‘It was comfortable being a professional player. All you had to do was concentrate on the game. The club took care of many things for you. I liked that. As a professional you were always active. I miss that. Now away from the game, it is more difficult to do exercise. I just don’t have the time. I can’t just take an hour and a half and go for a bike ride’, reflected Pascal Roller. He watches a lot of basketball today and has seen a lot change with the game to when he played. It would be interesting to see how the ex Skyliner captain would come to terms with the heightened athleticism of today’s game. ‘The game is more athletic now. When I played athleticism was just a trend. Many teams live off the pressure defense, but not necessarily with smart play. Many guys in my era weren’t as fast as guys today, but they had intellect on the court and understood the game well. Alba Berlin played very attractive basketball last season. They have players that can read the situation well. You didn’t have that kind of play in my era. You will see more teams like this where coaches allow the players to make their own decisions’, warned Pascal Roller.
Not only was being a professional player for the Fraport skyliners and winning two of their club three titles was a massive achievement, but also his time with the German national team where he was for many years Germany’s top point guard together with Steffen Hamann. When he was a national player, he was blessed to have had legend Dirk Nowitzki as a teammate. The offense revolved around the Dallas Maverick while today the talent level that the team has is incredible. One has to wonder how more successful Germany could have been at other events had other players been able to come out of the shadow of Nowitzki? ‘We had a great player with Dirk. Everything evolved around him. I harmonized well with him on the pick and roll. We understood each other well knowing when it was my shot and when it was his shot. We needed him and he needed us. That was how we felt. Some look back at the Euro championships 2015 and wonder why Dirk didn’t have the ball at the end instead of Dennis Schroeder. Not everyone can fill out that role. In 2005 it worked well for Dirk. In 2005 it was clear who had the ball at the end while in 2015 it wasn’t so clear. It seems to me There was no harmony in the team in 2015. I thought that team got slower in the game. They wanted to involve the bigs more instead of playing quick’, remembered Pascal Roller. Today Roller follows the German national team off the court and especially last summer, there was much drama concerning Joshiko Saibou and the success of Germany reaching the Olympics. ‘You can see the Saibou affair on many levels. He had some good games at the Super Cup. He didn’t have so much rhythm at the Olympics, but he still deserved to be there with his effort on the court. He was able to find a role on the team. On the other hand I think that the German basketball federation didn’t see the whole Saibou situation as critical as the basketball community did. I think that one still has to see it as critical to what he said about certain issues. The virus has shown us how aggressive it can be. He positioned himself with his opinion and the federation handled it bad. Saibou and the federation put themselves in a bad position from the start. I could of understood if he hadn’t been invited. Winning the qualification was a big success. We hadn’t been to the Olympics since 2008. 7 of the 12 teams at the Olympics were from Europe. We proved that we can play in a system where we play quick and played good defense showed how attractive we can play. We have the potential for more success in the future. The World Championships 2019 wasn’t great. A mistake was setting the goal to win a medal to the media. They should have kept that goal behind closed doors. Now I see the team having success in the next 2-3 years with a new coach and new ambition to win’, commented Pascal Roller. The German was in good spirits when I mentioned his ex coach Gordon Herbert who had been named German national team . ‘Henrik Roedl did a very good job. I don’t think the German federation did good communication with letting him go. Gordon Herbert was a very good choice. He knows German basketball, and has a good network. He will give a full commitment. I like how Gordy prepares and how he uses the strengths of players. He wants to see good basketball. It will be exciting to see what kind of a team he can form in a short time. I think he can do it’, stressed Pascal Roller. In the last years one would have thought that Germany could have done more damage with all the talent they had, but that wasn’t the case. One has too wonder if Germany has a luxury problem of having to many skilled players? ‘It seems like a comfortable situation and it’s nice to see that youth programs and the implementation of the NBBL have paid off. But you’ll never know who might be able to play because of club, contract or injury situation so it’s perfectly fine that there are more players being able to be on the team than spots available on a roster’, stated Pascal Roller. One player that I have enjoyed for years has been diminutive guard Bennet Hundt. Short players always seem to get a bad rap, but this kid is as tough as nails and could really be a good solution down the line as a vital player in the rotation. ‘He is a very interesting player. He is probably very annoying to play on offense and defense. I think that he could be a interesting fit as a different type of point guard to give impulses behind Schroeder, Bonga and Lo’, added Pascal Roller.
He played 11 years for the Frankfurt Skyliners and in this time played with so many gifted players. It is always enjoyable to shoot the breeze with him about his old teammates. There are so many guys you could mention. But he didn’t only have incredible teammates, but also coaches, of course a lot fewer than teammates. He played for coaches like Stefan Koch, Gordon Herbert, Murat Didin and Dirk Bauermann just to name a few, but many probably won’t remember his Italy season where he played for Angelico Biella (Italy-Serie A) and then less known Luca Bechi. I’m sure he hasn’t been asked too often in his life about his memories with him. ‘I have good memories of Luca Bechi. He always had a good spirit and was a player’s coach. He helped me a lot then get used to the new situation. He played run and gun and played young talents. Back then Daniele Baiesi was there and was able to get good players for little money’, remembered Pascal Roller. He gets asked a lot about the other two members of the lethal Bermuda triangle Chris Williams and Tyrone Ellis, but one guy who gets a little lost in the discussion is Robert Garret, a player who was so instrumental in the team’s only BBL title back in 2004. ‘I have many nice memories with Robert. One that really stands out was when we were very young. We were maybe 17 or 18 years old and were playing in a tournament in Paris. Demond Greene, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Maras, Robert Garrett and I were there. I got to know him well there. It is funny to look back and then remember that 5 years later we were all reunited again in the German national team’, said Pascal Roller. Another teammate of him was Mario Kasun. Only a few years after helping the team win the 2004 title, he would be banging under the hoop in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. ‘Mario was a very special player. Back then you didn’t see players of his size and physicality that also had a good shot. He was very easy going on the court. I didn’t know if he would go to the NBA then, but I knew that he wouldn’t be in Germany long with the way he dominated the game’, expressed Pascal Roller. Another player he saw mature in Frankfurt was Alex King. He saw King as a boy and later observed how he developed into a good man and great player that would win titles and become a national team player. ‘Frankfurt wasn’t easy for Alex. He was thrown into cold water. He began in Frankfurt when he was 15 or 16. He didn’t have an easy time with coach Murat Didin. He expected everyone who was there to be a full professional. It wasn’t an easy time for him, but it helped him a lot. Plus the whole environment with the Skyliners was very good for him. He made a great development from his time in Frankfurt until now. I remember in Frankfurt he couldn’t hit a three and then a few years later he achieved a Eurocup record with Wurzburg hitting 7/7 three’s. It was nice to see what work ethic and experience can do to a player like him’, remembered Pascal Roller. He played with so many players, but I can bet if you asked him who one of his 5 best teammates of all-time was, he would mention Derrick Allen. The guy was so fit and looked like he already ran a marathon in warmups before a game. It was only a shame that basketball Germany couldn’t see if Rasta Vechta would be the fittest team in the Pro A, because Derrick Allen was let go as head coach. ‘I think it could be a big challenge for his team if he has them all try to be as fit as he was. His work ethic was unbelievable. It was something that I seldom had seen. Back then the coaches that he had understood that Derrick had a plan to be the best he could. I am sure that he will go his way as a head coach’, expressed Pascal Roller before Allen had been let go. In his last season as a pro, the German had to take a back seat to Dashaun Wood who won the 2011 BBL MVP award. Wood was one of the best 1-1 players that Roller had ever seen. Was he born 10 years too early and be in the NBA today? ‘I remember before he arrived hearing how quick he was. It is hard to say if he would be in the NBA. He wasn’t 190cm then. Maybe if he had had a coach then that was looking for a player like him, he could have had a chance. Now you have very unusual players like a Russell Westbrook. You hardly see players like Muggsy Bogues or Isaiah Thomas anymore.
One of my favorite last questions in my basketball interviews in the last year was where players see a Chris Paul in the list of the best point guards of all-time despite not having won an NBA title yet. Most have him in the top 10 while very few have him in the top three. Of course I had to ask Pascal where he saw the current Phoenix Sun with the best of all-time. ‘I am a big Chris Paul critic. I am aware that his Stats are always very good and that he’s a 10 time AllStar. You can’t say anything against that. Sometimes I am just irritated by his behavior on the court which seems to me he’s more concerned about his game than his teams play. When I watch him play, he always looks so involved with his own game. Last season was the first time where it was different. He totally came through as a team leader on the court. It will be interesting to see what happens this season with the Suns- now he has shown to me that there is a new dimension to his game. But it wasn’t or maybe isn’t even easy to convince me’, stated Pascal Roller. When making an all-time Frankfurt Skyliner starting 5, I can bet most fans would have a Pascal Roller in the list. Of course my personal all-time starting five would include Pascal Roller, plus a few more great players with Dashaun Wood, Chris Williams, Danilo Barthel, Johannes Voigtmann and Tyrone Ellis as honorable mention. It is only fitting that Pascal remained very neutral and showed immense courtesy and respect to every single player he has been able to call a teammate. ‘You forgot Tez. It is difficult for me to make an all-time starting five. I played with so many great players. It has been cool to see how Danilo Barthel and Johannes Voigtmann have developed and made the next step. Isaac Bonga also was in Frankfurt. When I look back at my career, I remember being on so many different teams with Frankfurt that had many different players. Each team was special. Some teams worked while others didn’t. Guys like Jukka Matinen and Bernd Kruel were very important in their special ways with their personality and their spirit. Kai Nurnberger was another great player that I was able to play with’, stressed Pascal Roller. I apologize Tez. Of course if I had two starting fives, you would make the list. Pascal Roller will always be remembered as that ultimate team player that knew how to run a team to success as well as being able to hit that big shot which is why I called him Mr reliable back in the day during my radio play by play telecasts. With all the big shots that he ever sunk or didn’t sunk, which was the most memorable for him? It wasn’t one, but actually 3. ‘I had two nice ones and one not so nice. The first was game 5 against Bamberg in the 2004 final. I hit a big shot over Stefan Hamann. Robert Garrett and I made the last 15 points in route to the win. The second was a type of exhibition game in the Westfallen arena in Dortmund where I was 18 years old. I had the great opportunity to play NBA player Reggie Miller in a three point game. I went something like 9/20. Miller was even worse than I was. I remember being very hyped up to play him. The last was missing the free throw at the end in game 5 in Bamberg in 2010 that would have tied the game. That was in my mind for a long time after. I always thought what could have been had it gone in’, remembered Pascal Roller. I was in Bamberg in 2010 when he missed that shot. I also saw him make those shots in game 5 of the 2004 finals against Bamberg. But I did miss his epic three point shooting contest against legend Reggie Miller. Is there a tape of that contest Pascal?