Twenty years ago today: Champions in Europe and USA, 1992

In celebration of certainly still the most significant year in international basketball history, BallinEurope today begins the “Twenty years ago today” series in which we’ll peer back in time through the lens of YouTube to that era of morphing European national teams and Dream Team dominance.

In the wake of that Greatest Basketball Team Ever Assembled, much of the 1991-92 professional seasons themselves get the short shrift in the history books, but some quite interesting stuff was nevertheless happening on the Continent.

• The Euroleague boasted a cliffhanging thriller in Partizan Belgrade vs. Joventut Badalona. Badalona brought Harold Pressley (with averages of 20.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per EL game) and Rafael Jofresa, while the Black-and-Whites boasted local products Predrag Danilovic and Aleksanda Djordjevic. It was the latter who’d deliver the European championship to the storied franchise for its first and, to date, last such title ever.

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Quiz: The NBA- and Euro-centric year in basketball, 2011-12

2011-12: The year of Spanoulis?

Quick! Before those memories of basketball championships European and NBA fade completely, take a brief look back at the season that was – one crazy one on The Continent that began with Tony Parker, Ty Lawson and Mehmet Okur playing over here and concluded with titles taken by King James and Emperor Spanoulis. Get out those pencils and take the BallinEurope quiz…

1. The 2011-12 Euroleague season:
a) was one of the greatest ever
b) was the greatest ever
c) proved Jordi Bertomeu’s contention that “we don’t need NBA imports to be a top-quality competition
d) was awesome, but man, i’m jonesing. When does the season start?

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Ramunas Siskauskas: The BallinEurope video tribute

On Monday, European basketball great Ramunas Šiškauskas announced his retirement from the game: A story that was noteworthy enough for even North Korean sports fans to be notified. In his official statement, Šiškauskas said that he’d “made my choice in the middle of the season. It was not connected with anything specific – I just feel I should stop. I can only be excited about my career” and that “I am glad I was able to quit as a significant player, playing for such a great team and organization as CSKA Moscow.”

At 33 years of age, Šiškauskas put together a 16-season career with BC Sakalai Vilnius, Lietuvos Rytas, Benetton Treviso, Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow plus seven years with Team Lithuania in FIBA and Olympic play – good for a gold and two bronzes.

And in that decade and a half, Šiškauskas amassed just under 1,500 points in seven Euroleague seasons on 49.8% shooting including 42.3% on threes. His back-to-back EL titles earned in 2007 and ’08 are among his many individual-career and team highlights … aw, hell. Let’s dispense with further formalities and get to the Ramunas Šiškauskas career tribute in traditional BallinEurope fashion, i.e. with lots of YouTube clips! We’ll miss ya, Ramunas…

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Revealed: The EuroChallenge championship curse

(image courtesy Hurriyet Daily News)

Yes, but *should* they be celebrating?

Winning the EuroChallenge title is a good thing, right? After all, it’s typically the first Continental trophy to display on the mantelpiece and the champions label wins the club to right to play in the more prestigious (and more big-bucks) Eurocup competition the following season.

Well, Uygar Karaca may convince believers otherwise. In the first of a two-part series for BallinEurope.com, Karaca flips through the pages of recent EuroChallenge history to reveal the success – or lack thereof – championship clubs have experienced directly following a title bid. Hint: It’s pretty bleak stuff after 2004. Sorry, Beşiktaş

Winning a competition, especially on the Continental level, is a great achievement. However, titles come with a price. When success exposes players to the market, for example, clubs with better offers take the stars away. Alternatively, in order to get a trophy, clubs sometimes spend more than they can afford, which triggers the process of eventual financial collapse.

In this article, I tried to see whether winning the FIBA EuroChallenge tournament signals brighter days for the club or rather indicates a peak with the way forward pointing downward. Continue Reading…


Spartak St. Petersburg: The Hunger of Experienced Rookies

In the leadup to the 2011-12 Eurocup Final Four tournament beginning on Saturday, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca contributes a series of previews on the remaining quartet entitled “Four Teams, Four Stories” to BallinEurope.

Today taking a look at one of the two remaining Russian sides, Karaca writes “Zenit St. Petersburg reached its zenith when they managed to grab the UEFA Cup. Now, president Igor Lypsky, former deputy manager of Gazprom, has the same ambition. Isn’t it time for their citizens to win a European competition in basketball?

Talking about Spartak St. Petersburg is talking about history. Founded in 1935, the club stands as the oldest among the Eurocup Final Four competitors. However, as this marks the first time that Spartak has reached this level of competition, I think we can call St Petersburg experienced Eurocup rookies.

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On the demise of Lithuanian Basketball

Jasikevicius: The long-term leader

BallinEurope is not exactly sure what led our man in Lithuania, the enigmatic Y., to contemplate the fortunes of his country’s national team … but who are we to question a Lietuva hometowner when it comes to basketball? Y. goes back eight years to figure out where things went so terribly wrong and unfortunately finds little hope for Team Lithuania’s future – even with the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas and Donatas Motiejūnas aboard…

Underachievement of a previous generation
The 2004 Olympic Games were a huge disappointment for Lithuania. As EuroBasket 2003 champions, the team was one of main favourites for silver (the fall of the “Dream Team” was still unimaginable). Lithuania, however, that year finished fourth: one step short of the prize it had collected in every Olympiad since the country’s independence.

This was the beginning of the demise of what was a top national team in the world. Players’ refusal to participate, retirements, injuries and an underachieving new generation – all these aspects contributed to Lithuania’s fall from basketball superpower levels to status as a regional great, capable of reaching a medal stage in the right circumstances.

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Gallinari is gone? Next! Emporio Armani Milan’s new sensation Alessandro Gentile

Emporio Armani Milano sits at a dismal 2-4 in Euroleague play and now marquee name Danilo Gallinari is departing the club … so what’s next? How about coaxing the top prospect in Italy, Alessandro Gentile? Enrico Cellini reports.

Emporio Armani Milan knew that sooner or later it would have had to deal with the loss of NBA lockout refugee Danilo Gallinari, but no one expected this moment would take place in such troubled waters. The team has shown poor chemistry, losing four of its first six Euroleague games to compromise the chances of getting to the EL Top 16.

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One of us: Benetton Treviso fans loving Brian Scalabrine’s success

Whether you know him as Scal, Mr. Hustle or the White Mamba, Benetton Treviso fans recognize new signee Brian Scalabrine as “one of us” – and with good reason. The former Boston Celtic is enjoying a banner year with the Eurocup side and has established himself as a bona fide team leader in Serie A play. BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, takes a look at the phenomenon.

It is something of an informal tradition for Italian basketball fans to sing songs and chants to support their teams during basketball games, and a very short while passed before fans of Benetton Treviso dedicated a personal chant to Brian Scalabrine. They immediately opted for “Scalabrine uno di noi!” (“Scalabrine is one of us”).

Scalabrine is paying back his new fans’ warm welcome. On Sunday, he was decisive in the Treviso’s victory against Cantù: despite scoring only six points (though with only one missed shot; Scal was 2-of-3 in the game), he grabbed 15 rebounds, dished three assists and provided plenty of smart plays that do not go in the statistics. In the previous match against Avellino, Scal accounted for 18 points with eight field goals out of ten attempts.

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Coach Messina “going to Disneyland” (possibly on Kobe’s helicopter)

Messina: "What am I gonna teach Kobe?"

From Italy, BallinEurope’s Enrico Cellini has quotes from a conference attended by one of the nation’s finest-ever coaching minds, Ettore Messina, and collected a few thoughts from the new Los Angeles Lakers assistant on living in L.A., Kobe Bryant’s transport and going to Disneyland…

After earning a status as one of the most successful coaches of the last 15 years in Europe, Ettore Messina was hired this summer by the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant coach.

Messina is known for his charismatic and irrepressible attitude on the bench but has also the gift of self-irony outside the court. A few days ago, he spoke about leadership in a conference on sport business and digressed on the first challenges of his new life as a Laker.

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From Zen Master to Euroleague Master in Los Angeles?

Whoa, well now. Los Angeles Lakers fans knew that life would be bizarre in the post-Phil Jackson world, but so immediately? And involving Ettore Messina, for Naismith’s sake?

HoopsWorld reported last night (this morning by CET standards) that the four-time Euroleague champion coach might be coming aboard to serve under intriguing non-Kobe approved incumbent Mike Brown. This would appear to be a logical choice by Messina who, back in March, mused that assistant-coaching in the NBA “would be interesting.”

In talking to CNNSI shortly after abruptly parting ways with Real Madrid despite leading the team to nice positions on the ACB and Euroleague tables, Messina qualified his remarks with “But I need first of all to see if I could be a good assistant after many years of not being an assistant. And then it would have to be made clear that I am not going there to steal anybody’s job.”

Messina has been thought to be a candidate for a job with the San Antonio Spurs for 2011-12 as well, having spent eight days with that club in late March; Italy-based SoloBasket speculated that Messina would be offered a position when unnamed Spurs officials met with the coach during the Euroleague Final Four.

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