A tale of two cities: The young German rivalry

2023-03-17T12:10:08+00:00 2023-03-17T12:34:22+00:00.

Aris Barkas

17/Mar/23 12:10


FC Bayern Munich hosts ALBA Berlin a crucial game for the Bavarian club, which hopes to continue its dominance against the Berliners

By Aris Barkas/ barkas@eurohoops.net

The tale of two cities – which in some cases is a tale of just one city – has visited traditional rivalries in Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey, and Serbia. Even when they don’t have a long EuroLeague history, like in the case of the Belgrade derby, they have long roots in the country’s basketball tradition.

In Germany, things are a bit different. While Bayern Basketball is 77 years old and was considered one of the top German teams in the 1950s and 1960s, the basketball branch of the biggest sports club in Germany fell into obscurity. They were resurrected in the last decade, becoming Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regulars and their country’s most successful modern ambassador of the sport.

On the other hand, ALBA Berlin was founded in 1991 but became an instant hit and the first real German powerhouse to get respect around Europe.

However, now the tables are turned. Bayern has six wins in as many EuroLeague games against ALBA Berlin and they need their dominance to continue in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Here’s the story so far with four of the six games being held in Berlin and ALBA being, in most cases, more competitive on the road!

The first blood

December 18, 2019, was a historic day for the two clubs and German basketball. For the first time ALBA hosted Bayern for a EuroLeague game and the end result was a night to remember.

Bayern got the 77-76 overtime win on the road with current ALBA star Maodo Lo making 2 free throws before Niels Giffey missed the last shot and the chance to win it for Berlin. And guess where Giffey plays now? Yes, in Bayern, taking the opposite path from Lo.

Lo had also sent the game to overtime with a big three at the buzzer! That remains the closest game between the two opponents.

Triumph after COVID

Due to COVID-19, German fans had to wait almost a year in order to see the second game of the rivalry which ended up being a road triumph for Bayern.

The Bavarians dominated and took a 90-72 win in Berlin, getting a comfortable lead in the second quarter (52-33) and never looking back. That was also the first-ever EuroLeague showdown between ALBA coach Aito Garcia Reneses and Bayern’s Andrea Trinchieri.

First time in Munich

When the two teams finally met for the first time in Munich on February 5, 2021, we got overtime again and Bayern prevailed again (101-95), while ALBA almost made it behind 21 points by Simone Fontecchio.

However, Bayern came back from 16 points down to knock off their opponents as Jalen Reynolds came off the bench and tallied a career-high 24 points while Wade Baldwin had 21 points and 7 assists, and both Paul Zipser and Vladimir Lucic poured in 20 points.

Baldwin tied the game 87-87 with a three from the top of the key with 9.4 seconds to play. Luke Sikma missed on the buzzer and in the overtime a big three by Lucic plus 2 free throws from Baldwin got the job done in the closing minute.

Hilliard getting the job done

Next season in Berlin, Bayern once more prevailed by 13 (82-69) in a forgettable game.

It was ugly, but Bayern made 4 threes in the last 2 minutes of the game, good enough to close an 18-7 run that decided the outcome. In a game in which shots simply weren’t falling, Darrun Hilliard was the exception with 25 points while Nick Weiler-Babb scored 10 of his 16 points in his team’s final run.

The exception for ALBA was again current Bayern player Maodo Lo, who set a new career-high with 23 points.


In the second game of the season, this time in Munich, Bayern defended its home court, getting a 62-56 win in what will be remembered as the “Lucic game”.

The Serb forward had 19 points but more importantly a wild four-point play that sealed the win, giving his team a 59-52 lead with 41 seconds to go.

It was a very crucial win for Bayern, which moved to eighth place in the standings at the time and eventually made it to the playoffs while ALBA dropped to 6-15, pretty much a similar situation with the upcoming game in the same city between them.

One more close one

ALBA Berlin almost broke the spell in their first EuroLeague derby of this season, but Bayern escaped with a 79-77 road win. It was the fourth defeat in a row from ALBA to fall to a 3-4 record at the time despite a career-high 20 points from Jaleen Smith and a huge performance by Luke Sikma, who had 12 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Bayern entered the last period with a comfortable 68-58 lead and ALBA finally made it a two-point game after a three-pointer from Smith with 45 seconds left. Vladimir Lucic missed the next shot for Bayern, Smith had the chance to send the game to overtime but he fell short at the buzzer.