After we told you about the sad story of Pau-Orthez in France, we will give you a brief story about another traditional team that must go down to the second division. In Germany, one team has played in the Bundesliga forever, since the 1st German league has existed. But this may now be over.
If you visit the homepage of the LTi Giessen 46ers, you can scroll down to the bottom and see a counter saying “right now LTi Giessen 46ers – 1st division for 42 years, 7 months, 7 days, 21 hours, 42 minutes and 45 second (still counting).” But everything looks like the game this Saturday in Düsseldorf will be the last one for the team from Hesse in the Bundesliga. If no other team files for bankruptcy (which can still happen), Giessen will play in the Pro A division next season.
What happened to this once proud team that won five national titles and three Cups during its glory days of the 1960s and 70s? After the last title in 1979, the team passed through a poor decade in the 80s but finally managed to become a playoff team again during the 90s when they were called “Flippers.” At the beginning of the millennium, the team even reached the German semifinals again before moving back to mediocre play in following years.
One of the biggest performances of the recent history was reached in 2005, though, when the team built around Chuck Eidson reached the German semifinals after defeated highly favored Cologne in their arena in the fifth game. This game on 26th May 2005, which has even been made into a movie, marked the last great achievement of the now called 46ers, however.
Since that big moment, the team has slowly gone down both financially and basketball-wise. A multitude of coaches (five in three years) have come and gone in the old-fashioned Sporthalle Ost, but the fans are still there. Even some financial breakdowns and getting seriously close to bankruptcy this summer did not take away the pride of supports for their beloved team. The name “the never-relegatables” started to be uttered around the German league and the home gym was known as one of the toughest places to play.
However, the lack of quality and team stability ended with the devastating results of this season, with the team now facing relegation for the first time in its history. A season that even had its negative highlight with a forfeit, because the team arrived too late during a road trip marked by a combination of bad planning and traffic jams.
But the financial meltdown was avoided, and Giessen can still hope for a wild card for next season, as several German teams are not sure yet of competing in the Bundesliga 2009/2010. Paderborn or Nördlingen have big financial trouble, and the two teams moving up from Pro A have either an ineligible arena or too small a budget. Everything remains possible for the team that recently extended the contract of former player and now coach, Vladi Bogojevic.
So the last words have not been said in the city on the Lahn River, and the qualification of “non-relegatables” may stay alive another season; even if the fans need to put an asterisk behind that name with the additional information of being saved by the wild card.