Since 2000, when Euroleague was founded, we witnessed a lot of entertaining matches and finals. For today I will focus on those teams that managed to win the Euroleague but failed to take the crown on the national competition. During 19 Euroleague’s seasons, in only three occasions the best team from the strongest European basketball competition were not able to add the trophy in their national competition. There are Panathinaikos Athens in 2001-2002, Barcelona in 2009-2010 and Olympiacos Pireu in 2012-2013.
In 2001-2002 season, Panathinaikos took the crown after an 89-83 win over Kinder Bologna (now Virtus Bologna), with Dejan Bodiroga being the Final Four MVP. Their roster included names that will become legendary for the Greek basketball like Fragiskos Alvertis or Lazaros Papadopoulos, helped by the Turk forward Kutluay Ibrahim, the Croatian guard Damir Mulaomerovic and the American with Spanish passport Darryl Middleton. The Italian team was also a strong competitor. They were the former champions, winning the first Euroleague trophy over Tau Ceramica. They were led on the field by now-NBA legend Manu Ginobili, Matjas Smodis, Marko Jaric, Antoine Rigaudeau, David Andersen, Sani Becirovic.
But, let’s get back to Panathinaikos and their failure to win the Greek League. In that season, they finished second in the regular season, two wins less than AEK Athens and one more than Olympiacos. In the playoffs, PAO met Olympiacos in the semifinals and were eliminated 2-0, despite having the home-court advantage in case of a decisive game 3.
In the final act, AEK Athens came out victorious after a 3-2 win after a huge comeback. They lost the first two games and Olympiacos had the edge, but after a 61-60 victory in Game 4, AEK take the win in the last game 79-70 and were crowned champions again after 31 years. Their roster included J.R Holden (Two-time Euroleague champion in 2006 and 2008 and 9 times Russian Champion with CSKA Moscow), Dimos Dikoudis (Euroleague champion in 2007 and Greek League MVP in 2002) and Michalis Kakiouzis (Champion in Greece-2002, Italy-2004 and Turkey-2009).
Bogdan Vasile Tirc