León Najnudel was born on July 14, 1941 in Buenos Aires. According to Armando Grimberg in the documentary “León, reflections of a passion”, León was born in the house located at 522 Thames in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. As kids, they played soccer in the neighborhood and then they started playing basketball. As a teenager, after participating in the Evita tournaments, he began playing at the Villa Crespo social club, located at Avenida Juan B. Justo 2650, in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. At the age of 15, León began playing in the first team of this club. He then went through other clubs such as Victoria, Barracas Juniors and Atlanta, until it became known that he was charging money to play and the federation at that time suspended him for life. By then he stops playing basketball. That's when he began his career in technical direction.
He had an important rise from his dedication to technical direction at Los Bohemios de Villa Crespo (1963-1971), a club of which he was a passionate fan. In addition, he directed the Corrientes team (1971-1975), F. C: Oeste (1976-1982), CAI Zaragoza (Spain), the National Senior team (1985 in the South American Championship that qualified for the World Cup in Spain ). In addition, he was an emblematic figure of Ferro Carril Oeste in the early years of the '80s, when he achieved 11 titles in three years; The most important were the South American Club Championships of 1981 and 1982 and seven seasons later he returned to Caballito to win the National League.
In the two-time subcontinental champion team he directed with Luis Martínez. Miguel Cortijo from Santiago, Sebastián Uranga from Entre Rios, Javier Maretto, Luis Oroño and Gabriel Darrás from Santa Fe, Diego Mario Maggi from Buenos Aires and foreigners Michales Schiegel, Carl Amos and James Thomas played there.
Other parchments were obtained in the Motherland in 1984 when he directed CAI Zaragoza with which he won the “Copa del Rey” and his pair, “Korac Radijov”.
April 26, 1985 was a historic day for Argentine sports, because the National Basketball League was born. It was an initiative for which the “Russian” Najnudel had fought for the last four years against the fierce opposition of the Buenos Aires leaders. The National League consisted of the participation of clubs from all over the country in an extensive nine-month competition. This new entity, added to the participation of the State in sports planning, and to the “leadership revolution” that took place since the beginning of the 1990s, headed by the three musketeers: Horacio Muratore (Tucumán), Germán Vaccaro (La Pampa) and Guillermo Lombardi (Buenos Aires province), among other leaders, produced great results. In the history of sports, León marked the beginning of a path to the popularization and professionalization of basketball.
The creation of the National League, as a high-level federal sports spectacle suitable for being sold to television, increased its vision and was the kickstart for the emergence of the Golden Generation. A place of high-level competition that was going to give national players the possibility of being able to shine and play throughout the country.
We must highlight that after this great initiative, for the first time Argentina was Pan American champion in 1995, it was able to return to the Olympic Games in Atlanta '96 (after 44 years); being runner-up in the world in 2002 in Indianapolis (USA) and obtaining two Olympic medals: Gold in Athens 2004 and Bronze in Beijing 2008, with the so-called “Golden Generation”.
Najnudel was also technical director of Sport Club Cañadense (1986-1988), Deportivo San Andrés (1990-91), Gimnasia y Esgrima de Comodoro Rivadavia (1991-93), Boca Juniors (1993-95, Racing Club (1995- 96), to end his career with his return to F. C. Oeste (1996-97), reaching a record of 241 wins and 207 losses in the first division of the National Basketball League.
The unforgettable “Lion of Basketball” was an advisor in the Undersecretariat of Sports of the Nation in two governments with different political currents. With radicalism under the orders of Osvaldo Otero and Peronism with Víctor Lupo from Tucumán. There he worked intensely to be able to modify the outdated statutes of the national sports federations, which has not yet been achieved.
The “Russian” was always a great friend of the football technical director Carlos Timoteo Griguol, “The Old Man”, whom he met and admired in Atlanta, and the journalist Adrián Paenza, with whom he talked for long hours about the problems of national sports and who They accompanied him until the last moment of his existence. They used to meet, among others, at the “El Dandy” Bar, where it is said that the national league was created. This bar that no longer exists was located on one of the corners of Avenida Corrientes and Thames, in the Villa Crespo neighborhood.
For his former friends he was always “The Russian”; For those who knew him some time later and for the entire basketball world he never stopped being simply “León”. Intelligent, enterprising, brave, generous, passionate, all that and much more, that was León Najnudel.
León left us on April 22, 1998 after fighting leukemia.
“León, reflejos de una pasión”, documental de José Glusman