So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.
To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:
• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;
• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;
• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);
• the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);
• some awesome schadenfreude-laced moments as NBA refugees came to play on the Continent during the player lockout, plus all the incredibly amusing speculation on names beginning with Kobe Bryant; and finally
• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.
Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.