By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With the COVID pandemic still ongoing, fans returning to the gyms but on most occasions not in full capacity, and money still being a problem all over Europe, it comes to no surprise that the Eurohoops domestic league rankings of 2021-22 are identical to those of last season.
Spain remains the gold standard, followed by the VTB League and then BSL, with Anadolu Efes keeping the prestige of the league sky high after winning the EuroLeague.
However, things are not ideal for anyone and that’s the big issue. Coming off the COVID pandemic it remains to be seen how the domestic leagues will bounce back in a very difficult landscape. Once more Poland just missed the cut and the jury is still out on the betFirst BNXT League, a joint project in Belgium and the Netherlands, which replaced both local leagues.
It has to be noted that especially after the peak of the pandemic, EuroLeague clubs or those who want to be part of the EuroLeague on most occasions look like isolated islands compared to the rest of their domestic leagues’ competition.
- ACB Liga Endesa – Spain (-)
- VTB United League (-)
- BSL – Turkey (-)
- Lega Basket Serie A– Italy (-)
- Betclic ELITE ProA – France (-)
- Easy credit BBL -Germany (-)
- HEBA Basket League – Greece (-)
- Adriatic League (-)
- Winner’s League – Israel (-)
- LKL – Lithuania (-)
1. Liga Endesa
No matter how you measure things, you can’t deny that ACB is by far the best domestic competition and probably the only domestic league that really captivates a mainstream audience almost every week.
On average, VTB remains the most wealthy league in Europe, and the numbers announced yesterday prove it. The main issue for the league remains a very low interest from the local audience with very few exceptions. The information about the TV rights being sold for half a million euros is the biggest proof. That’s reflected also in the issues that the Russian national team is facing in recent years and the lack of high-level talent production.
The Turkish League has not escaped the financial issues that plague most of European basketball. On the other hand, having clubs like EuroLeague champions Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahce, and also Karsiyaka makes a good enough case for the level of competition.
The Italian league has regained a part of its old glory with Milan and Virtus Bologna leading the way. Keep in mind that in the 80s and early 90s Italy had probably the best league in Europe. While the league also includes much weaker clubs, it’s really competitive, it has at least two very high-level teams and there’s enough interest from the fans to make it relevant to a relatively wide audience that knows and loves basketball.
With two EuroLeague teams in LDLC ASVEL and AS Monaco, prospects like Victor Wembanyama and Kostas Antetokounmpo, and finally a real superstar in Mike James, the French league managed to stay part of the Top5, despite a nightmare of scheduling last season due to COVID. The issue for France is that basketball for most means only the NBA and while there’s a decent local interest for all clubs, the French basketball league is not yet a priority among French sports fans.
The Germans have locked two spots in the EuroLeague with Bayern Munich and ALBA Berlin, however despite last season’s playoffs run from Bayern and the solid unit of ALBA, there’s still a lack of star power in the league that doesn’t help to gain the mainstream interest. Most clubs are first and foremost fixed on being fiscally responsible and investing in infrastructure – which is great but has not produced yet any noticeable on-court results – and not into creating some real buzz that will make the league grow.
Olympiacos finally returns to the league after a two-year absence, but while this is a much-needed boost especially for the casual fan’s interest in the finals, the rest of the league remains a mixed bag. Money is not what it used to be in Greece, there are contenders like AEK, Promitheas, and Lavrio, but in general, the situation in the league is stagnant at best.
8. ABA League
A lot of people will tune in this year to ABA for the Crvena Zvezda vs Partizan match up and for a good reason. Obradovic‘s Partizan has on paper the strongest roster that appeared in the league during the last decade. Still, other projects like Cedevita Olimpija have not yet panned out and very few clubs have the ability to really spend on high-level talent or facilities, creating a really unbalanced league.
9. Winner’s League
Israel suffered not only from COVID but also from their decision against the will of many foreign players to not cancel the season when violence escalated in Gaza. Still, Maccabi Tel Aviv is a powerhouse by any measure for European basketball and good, young, talented US players prefer to start their European career in Israel. Plus, national interest is always high compared to countries like Germany, Italy, and France.
Lithuania will always be a Top10 league in Europe. Basketball remains a religion in Lithuania and all the country is basketball-crazy. On the other hand, the population of Lithuania is estimated to be less than three million people, Zalgiris has no competition, so you get the point.