Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me for centuries
We can rarely tell when an era begins but sometimes you can really feel the sense of finality to one. When Fenerbahce went all out on Thursday night to beat Anadolu Efes, it was the formal end of an era that we didn’t really know ended once last season closed.
The Efes of the three* seasons prior to this one, beginning with the pandemic abandoned one, was the most must-see team in all of European basketball. Sometimes that gets equated to Euroleague as it’s the premier competition with the best sides but it’s worth expanding that to include all the other aspects because the totality of their watchability in that span warrants it.
*The 2018/2019 version was a whole lot of fun but I feel hindsight is influencing their part in the narrative more. Of course, they made the championship game but I don’t feel the wider viewership realised just how cool they were to watch until very late in the campaign.
The odd part is, and I’m sure this goes for a lot of people reading this, is that when I think of this team the season I think of the most is the one that didn’t win a championship. The 2019/2020 version of Efes was absolute box office.
This was a team that, led by Shane Larkin in god mode and Vasilije Micic, found ways to win. That was the odd thing, they didn’t lose much if at all. Through the 28 rounds that were played, Efes went 24-4 yet so many of those wins felt for three or more quarters like the ultimate contest. It was like these games were written to be as enthralling as they could be, they made the regular season feel alive with a top of the table club in ways that are simply hard to emulate.
When that season was cancelled, the natural fear was that this was their best shot at a championship at it had evaporated. Well, two straight championships later and that was proved wrong. Those were good Efes sides, albeit ones that had to claw back ground in both regular seasons, obviously but not quite the Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City Chiefs.
That NFL comparison with the pandemic shortened Efes season makes sense when I think about it. The Chiefs won with Mahomes again in February but, when I think of appointment viewing KC, I think of the side that mirrored the calendar of that Efes side. As a sports junkie it was, in hindsight, an extraordinary time.
On Thursday or Friday evening (along with the odd Tuesday or Wednesday) it was Ergin Ataman’s lads making me lose my collective everything followed by the Chiefs (and I’ll not that I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fans) delivering similar excitement on Sundays.BallinEurope is ramping up its YouTube game this season. Subscribe to our channel now for player exclusives, analysis videos, and much more.
So often the teams that truly thrill us just don’t win the big one. They last a long way in the season, maybe even until the deciding game, but don’t win the big one. The world coming to a close halted the effort of that Efes team, whereas the Chiefs were fortunate enough that their calendar finished a month before everything changed. For fans, that unanswered question was a pain. The could was clear, of course Efes could have won it all. Would they was where the drama lay.
As a species, we are storytellers and obsessed with narratives. It’s how we comprehend pretty much everything or make it function in our brains. Heck, even the way people have talked since time immemorial about potential world ending events can be linked to that. While we may not want the world to end we also want to know the end of its story.
Then, of course, they did it. Not that season but they did it. Then they did it again, which really doesn’t happen a lot. That for me was the one where I had more doubt. I wasn’t some soothsayer for the 2020/21 championship they won. All the pieces they needed beyond Larkin and Micic were still there. Last season’s title? I honestly felt that Sertac Sanli’s contribution, particularly in the first three quarters of games, being lost might be the difference maker. It certainly made things tighter but we all know who cut down the nets a year ago.
So, here we all are. I’m going back to the Final Four this season for the first time since the pandemic began yet Efes are not. Serious kudos to Fenerbahce because they brought everything to that fight on Thursday night. The 103-86 score makes it look facile but Fener worked for that big win, with Dyshawn Pierre and Nigel Hayes-Davis both playing the full 40 minutes. If a titan is going to fall, it means more when the ones slaying them bring that kind of fight.BallinEurope has a book, a real life actual book called I Like it Loud, and you can buy it on Amazon now. It’s here as a book and here in Kindle form.
Truth was, Efes of this season never really was the one of the three or four years prior. The team was that bit older and not where it was but the idea of counting them out just seemed foolhardy until they were actually done. It’s Ataman’s Efes, they always found a way.
Much like the Lakers side that went back to back in 2009 and 2010, all the signs that the threepeat wouldn’t happen were there but enough of us, well me at least, just couldn’t buy into it. The last game of that 4-0 sweep by the eventual champion Mavs felt a far limper exit than how Efes went down albeit without even making the postseason.
So they didn’t threepeat like Split. They didn’t create a decade of dominance like Varese. They will probably bid farewell to one of Larkin or Micic. These things happen. All of us who watched that journey, as enthralled neutrals, will still talk about this spell for years to come. Decades from now, assuming I’m around, I expect to be telling people about how there was a time where Larkin felt like the perfect weapon for the situation he was in and how Micic, whose whole career is a fascinating narrative, was his own way and why I gave a hoot about Sanli.
Eras end but they are remembered.
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