*Can* white men jump? Ratiopharm Ulm takes respite from Bundesliga race to test age-old axiom

Gunther: Can he or can't he?

Gunther: Can he or can’t he?

BallinEurope’s not exactly sure whose inspiration the below-embedded clip starring three Ratiopharm Ulm studs was or why Per Günther agreed to serve as guinea pig to test the classic punchline/sound bite of basketball subculture, namely “white men can’t jump.” (Or if you prefer, “Weiße Jungs bringens nicht” for appropriate local flavor. Completely irrelevant side note: In Hungarian, the Harrelson/Snipes/Rosie Perez epic is entitled “Zsákolj, ha tudsz!” or literally “Dunk if you can!”)

“Du willst Per Günther dunken sehen?” (or “Will you/we see Per Günther dunk?”) is a 68-second clip featuring Allan Ray and Pooh Jeter bringing the trash talk and the 185cm (6’1”) point guard’s strong willingness to jam.

Poor Per. And yet there’s a method to the seeming madness of this method. The club has announced that, should the Ratiopharm Ulm Facebook page receive 20,000 fans (could they mean “likes”?), Herr Günther promises to successfully dunk it through. Though perhaps he should recall what happened directly after ol’ Billy Hoyle pulled off the slam in a guaranteed victory…

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Panathinaikos tops Maccabi Tel Aviv, 86-85 to advance; Greens to take on Red Army, history in Istanbul

The 2011-12 Euroleague Final Four field is now filled, as Panathinaikos’ cliffhanger of an 86-85 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv last night sets up a May date with the monsters of CSKA Moscow in Istanbul.

(And now, a slight bit of horn-tooting. Note a few Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ made good, i.e. Dimitris Diamantidis as player of the game and a fairly close call of the final score. Yeah, yeah, BiE knows the drill from White Men Can’t Jump: “The sun even shines on a dog’s ass some days. Anyone can win the lottery.”)

While the bookmakers see the Greens as relative longshots – former Euroleague sponsor Sporting Bet has CSKA at 3/4, FC Barcelona at 12/5, PAO at 4/1 and Olympiacos at 11/1 – one compelling bit of history should be firmly in the minds of the favorites: Since 2001, Panathinaikos has played in five EL Final Fours and they’ve won four, including those three taken in the past five years.

Game highlight clip, a look at the last five seconds of game time, an obligatory YouTube of the OAKA crowd and official league writeup follow.

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Sasha Vujacic: Toast of New Jersey, Boast of the Year

"Ladies, ladies, I don't mean to brag, but ... I'm the greatest."

From BallinEurope’s ever-reliable In Case You Missed It Department, here’s what might become the most outrageous basketball-related quote of 2010-11 behind “I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach” … you know, if anyone cared about Sasha Vujacic:

“I know I can score 20 or 30 points anytime I want,” Vujacic said, as reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. “But I’m not that kind of a guy. I want to win. I want to play the right way. Some games I’m going to get 10 shots, some games 15 shots; sometimes, especially coming off the bench, you’re going to feel cold, and you need time to get in the rhythm. But right now, what I care the most is for us to become a better team. And we are really capable of doing that.”

The occasion for the media attention given Sasha and his subsequent verbosity was a glorious 103-101 overtime win for the New Jersey Nets over the New Orleans Hornets last Wednesday. Vujacic went for a career-high 40 points 35 points 25 points.

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Greece vs. Russia: He who wins shall lose?

Rosie knows it

“Sometimes when you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose, you really win. And sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs.” – Gloria Clemente, White Men Can’t Jump

Congratulations go out from BallinEurope to Teams USA, Turkey and Lithuania for getting tickets punched into the knockout tournament as VIP no. 1 seeds. And while the Argentina-Serbia battle tonight to determine how Group A shakes out should be a dandy, the one to watch – particularly if you’re a FIBA official or conspiracy theorist – will be Russia vs. Greece.

In what is definitely a case of “he who wins shall lose,” the no. 2 seed in Group C will face what appears to be the most difficult path to the championship game in the bracket. Assuming Team Spain handles winless Canada, the winner of tonight’s Russia-Greece contest would first draw Espana as no. 3 seed in Group D in the “eight finals,” followed by (Team USA) the winner of USA vs. Angola/Australia.

The loser of Russia-Greece would get a bracket that includes an opening game against France followed by the winner of Argentina vs. Brazil/Croatia – while hardly an easy road, which do you think David Blatt and Jonas Kazlauskas would prefer?

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The 35 Greatest Basketball YouTubes of All-Time: Nos. 26-30

BallinEurope continues counting down The 35 Greatest Basketball YouTubes of All-Time today with another five video clips for your time-wasting pleasure perusal. The criteria used in compiling this list – such as they are – may be found here, along with the 31st through 35th Greatest YouTubes ever.

Rrrrrroll ‘em!

30. The Barack Obama basketball mix tape. Say what you will about the man’s policies, but the truth is America’s president can beat your leader in a game of hoops any day. And how many heads of state have a YouTube highlight clip?

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Who’s the star now? Dylan Page verbally schools trash-talking Marc Salyers in France

Page: "Yo momma got a leather wig with gray sideburns."

Comment dit-on «My momma ain’t no astronaut!» en français? Current Le Mans forward Marc Salyers had better start brushing up on his trash-talking skills a bit after getting schooled both verbally and on the court by Dylan Page.

In the leadup to Tuesday’s LNB semifinal match between Le Mans and Chorale Roanne, Salyers stunningly answered a reporter’s question regarding Page thusly: “Comparing me to Dylan Page is like comparing a star to a flashlight.”

But Salyers’ instant-classic Barkleyesque simile soon became classic motivational fuel for Page and his Le Mans mates to take out top-seeded Roanne, 99-95 in overtime of the second semifinal match between the teams. All Page did was go for 17 points in the win while the power forward held Salyers to eight points and six rebounds.

To top things off, immediately following another overtime bucket by Page and during a timeout, Page went to the media table to rhetorically ask Sport+ commentator Jacques Monclar, “Who’s the star now?

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Your morning Euroleague highlight video fix (heavy on the Linas Kleiza)

Good morning. Enough talk: Let’s get straight to the Euroleague highlight fix!

Below the break runs the top five plays of quarterfinals games two, starring Alan Anderson, D’Or Fischer, Marko Jaric, Viktor Khryapa, burgeoning megastar Jan Vesely, and Josh Childress posterized by Daniel Ewing.

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Confirmed: Divac’s “Once Brothers” in ESPN’s “30 for 30″ series

Thanks go out this morning to the folks at ESPN Communications and congratulations go out to Vlade Divac and filmmaker Michael Tolajian, whose documentary film “Jednom braća” (“Once Brothers”) has been confirmed as part of ESPN’s high-profile “30 for 30” documentary film series. The addition of Tolajian’s film to the series had been reported by Serbia media earlier this week.

The “30 for 30” series features medium-length films on a sports subject; among the notable names contributing directorial skills to the series are Barry Levinson, Steve Nash, Ice Cube and Morgan Freeman.

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Movie review: Streetballers

Amidst the NBA All-Star weekend festivities starting up tonight in Dallas, the independently-produced film Streetballers continues its distribution through America with a VIP celebrity/NBA charity screening and fundraiser. Set to host festivities is the Los Angeles Lakers’ Josh Powell, certainly the movie’s biggest fan (that’s his “best basketball film ever made” remark on promo material); P. Diddy will be hosting the post-screening bash.

Streetballers premiered in 2009 and stars Jimmy McKinney, the former University of Missouri/current Deutsche Bank Skyliners guard.

The film will be going on to local premieres in Miami, Washington D.C., and New York City – so how about bringing it to The Continent, Mr. Krentz? – but is available now in a special DVD edition (including lotsa extras) along with the soundtrack via NeoFlix. Click here for the official Streetballers movie website.

Review and official trailer follow.

It’s absurd if you think about it. Basketball itself, i mean. Seriously, what are we spending so much time doing, watching, obsessing over? An amusement involving humans displaying very specialized skills with the ultimate goal of inducing a ball to complete passage through a metal ring. That’s it.

Yet, to those who play the game, to those seek to make the game a life’s calling, to those who live and die with the games, it transcends. Strong individual personalities aside, team play in basketball requires a dissolution of the ego, a submission of self to greater altruistic good, to work best. Basketball can make one a better person, can bridge gaps in communication across fear and history, can bring pride to a nation.

Why? Call it the power of love of the game. And love, as we know, is its own reward.

Streetballers is a product of love of the game, and the first feature film from independent film quadruple threat director/producer/writer/lead actor Matthew Scott Krentz. It’s a deft exploration of true-to-life characters in a visual essay on how basketball links us all. (It’s no coincidence that the PR blurb on the film’s IMDB.com page leads with “Streetballers is for basketball what Field of Dreams was for baseball,” i.e. “Defining street basketball as America’s new favorite pastime” or, as an updated Terence Mann might say, “basketball has marked the time.”)

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It’s official: Linas Kleiza to Olympiacos

You heard it here first! After Ball in Europe postulated that it was down to an uninterested Denver Nuggets team and George Karl vs. an Olympiacos willing to blow big bucks on a big-time scorer, Linas Kleiza has signed with Olympiacos.

We’d wish best of luck to both parties, but as Billy Hoyle once said, “it’s got nothing to do with luck.” No doubt Olympiacos has instantly become a Euroleague power to be reckoned with…

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