DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Nuggets fans know forward Danilo Gallinari is a pretty popular player in Denver. But in Italy, he’s “the” player. He is one “paesan” who was born to play the game.
Most Italian-born boys dream of kicking the ball in a soccer game, not dunking. Then again, most Italian boys aren’t 6-foot-10 either.
“When I was 18 it was my last season in Milan. I was 18 turning 19 and it was my last season in Milan and I knew that that year was very important for me,” Gallo said. “A lot of scouts were coming to every game. So I know that the impression of me was increasing.”
Gallo was only 19 years old when the New York Knicks made him the sixth pick in the NBA draft. Three years later he was a Denver Nugget.
It’s in the genes. Gallo’s father, Vittorio, was a star player in the Italian league.
“He was a tough player, defensive-minded player. He was one of those players who can lock down the best opponent, the best scorer, rebounding and doing the dirty work,” Gallo said.
He did a lot of that dirty work playing against Jelly Bean Bryant, Kobe’s father.
“Many times I guard him because he was a scorer. It was just like Kobe, he always shoots, he was a good scorer. So I was one of the best defenders in Italy, so I always played against him. He was a funny, funny player,” Vittorio said.
They all speak the language of basketball in the Gallinari family. Vittorio works as a player agent in Italy, but he spends a lot of time in Denver watching his oldest boy live out his dream.
“We have a basketball family. I played basketball, Danilo plays basketball, (Danilo’s brother) plays basketball,” Vittorio said.
“I was always thinking about school and tests,” Gallo said. “Because if I did a bad test and come back with a bad number, my dad would have killed me.”
There’s another Gallo whose interested in the family business — 15-year-old Federico. He’s 6-foot-5 and growing.
“I play power forward, small forward or center,” Federico said.
“I’m very proud of him because it’s not an easy situation when you are in a basketball family. You have my dad who played and won everything you can imagine overseas. And then you have me in the NBA, and him. It’s not easy when you go to school and they say, ‘Oh, you are Danilo’s brother,’ ” Gallo said.
“Danilo’s more (of a) quiet guy. (Federico) likes to go out with some girls,” Vittorio said.
“You like the ladies?” CBS4’s Vic Lombardi asked Federico. “Yeah,” he responded.
And don’t forget the lady of the house. Danilo’s mother also played the game. She spends half the year in Denver making sure her son is well-fed.
“Every time – breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Gallo said.
Gallo is at his happiest when the family is together. In fact there may be room for another NBA player in the clan when Federico comes of age. Gallo said it’s a dream of his to one day play with his brother in the NBA.
Federico has a ways to go to catch his brother, but if things go according to plan, he’d like to move in with his brother and play a year of high school ball in Denver.