By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
While the 2016/2017 story was completed with a merry and as “happily ever after” finale as it can possibly get, it certainly hadn’t began ideally for Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The season kicked off with great ambitions, positive spirits and confidence as high as the sky, following the silver medal achievement with the Serbian national team in the Olympic Games. Considered then among the contenders for season MVP in EuroLeague, the 24-year-old guard faced an early blow after hurting his ankle in just the third game of the regular season vs Zalgiris Kaunas in Istanbul.
He was forced to remain sidelined for more than two months.
Things finally started to get rolling for him around late January. A 27-point blast in a win vs Olympiacos arrived a bit later and the crowds in Ulker Arena were rejoicing for the return to form of a beloved hooper. Alas, he was about to suffer yet another ankle injury few weeks later, on March. It was shortly before the end of the first quarter of a key match for Fenerbahce on the road against Brose Bamberg. He was visibly in some serious pain and barely holding up. His agony wasn’t only physical as one can easily deduce but also grievous on an other, deeper level. It was the inability to step on the court with the EuroLeague regular season approaching its final stretch, that tortured him the most.
Bogdanovic used this frustration as a tool sharp enough to rip apart the doctors’ predictions that signed him off until the playoffs. Not only he would recover much quicker than expected, but also put such deeds on the floor in his return, that inspired a song of high praise by the usually hard to impress Fener head coach Zeljko Obradovic.
He was just warming up. In the quarterfinal series against Panathinaikos, he proceeded to deliver perhaps the most monumental (at least according to numbers) combination individual performances ever witnessed in the history of the playoffs. He signed two basketball masterpieces that will be remembered as fabled, for two road victories and a 2-0 entrance in the series. His teammates then took care of the rest in Game 3 to achieve a sweep at home.
That’s where the EuroLeague Final Four was scheduled take place. Well, not at Ulker Arena but few miles further, at “Sinan Erdem” Dome. Fenerbahce was the favorite to win the prestigious trophy of the European champion and needed to convert the science of that theory into game-winning action.
When the call for the latter arrived, the Serbian guard took arms and posted 14 points plus six assists in the semifinal vs Real Madrid. Two days later, he breached the defenses of Olympiacos with 17 points (4/8 2-pointers, 3/7 from downtown) plus five rebounds while his team won the first EuroLeague title not only in the history of the franchise but Turkish basketball.
He would probably earn Final Four MVP honors, if teammate Ekpe Udoh didn’t put an outrageously dominant show on both offense and defense during the tournament. A pair of displays that made Bogdanovic say that he hasn’t ever seen a big guy like him in Europe.
If the season finished that night of May 21 it would still be absolutely glorious for the Serbian player. Then again, he and his teammates were hungry for more and their appetite wouldn’t be satisfied if they didn’t close the season with the domestic championship title.
After trailblazing their path through the two first stages of the playoffs, tonight (17/6) Fenerbahce were crowned Turkish league champions. And Bogdan Bogdanovic capped the most successful year of his professional career so far by earning MVP honors in the Final after averaging 14.5 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds while showing the spectrum of his sheer versatility, clutch charisma and leadership in the four matches of the series.
The 24-year-old player entered the stage casually for his standards, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds in Game 1 vs Besiktas. But that was just the start. The more the Finals progressed the more he pumped up the volume of his production rates.
He finished Game 2 with 19 points seven assists and three rebounds and then notched 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists plus fired the game-tier that forced an overtime, leading his team to a hard-earned victory in a hostile environment of a heated Game 3 away from home.
Still, he was saving the best for last.
Fenerbahce wanted to sweep the series by also taking advantage of an empty and silent Akatlar Arena. This imminent danger brought out all the survival skills Besiktas could muster and with two minutes remaining, coach Sarica’s players were up by 14, 65 – 79. Yet that was when Bogdan flared up with seven points in a single possession and a total of 10 in almost 120 seconds to lead Fener‘s comeback towards tying the score for an extra period.
His team then assumed control and won the match and the championship. Bogdan finished with 23 points and nine assists. It was the exclamation mark on a season where every fantasy became real for him and his squad.
All the signs point towards this game being the last we’ll from the Serbian international player in European soil for a fair number of years to come. The Sacramento Kings practically adore him and can’t wait to welcome him in their bosom. While spectacle-wise it’s not pleasant for the EuroLeague crowd to see one of the stars of the competition making the leap to live the dream in the green pastures of the NBA, you should feel happy for Bogdan. If the Kings give him the call then so be it. He’s earned it . He deserves it. And he’s got all the right stuff to succeed there.