Βy Mete Budak @mete_budak / Translation: Anıl Can Sedef
This weekend, one of the most spectacular stories of European basketball history may be realized on the blessed soil of Istanbul, right before our eyes.
There are only two protagonists: One of them is a Serbian basketball legend. The other is probably going to be one when he calls it time. The time, place, age, talent… The stage is set for history.
Istanbul, 1992… Aleksandar Djordjevic, the captain of Partizan, was in Istanbul for a EuroLeague Final Four with his coach, Zeljko Obradovic. Only the ones going for crazy bets were saying their name as one of the contenders in a stacked F4 match-up between them, Phillips Milan, Estudiantes and Joventut Badalona.
Partizan was the youngest team of the four and they were here despite playing an only game in their home court, because of the war. Although they were almost invincible in their temporary home in Fuenlabrada (with only one defeat), not much people believed they had a chance to claim the throne of European basketball.
They beat Philips Milan at the semi-final, taking on Joventut Badalona for the big prize at the final. And that final brought a fitting end to the story in the city of epic victories and defeats.
Djordjevic, who was about to turn 25 in a matter of months, brought the EuroLeague title to Partizan and Serbia for the first and only time with an iconic buzzer-beater.
That shot was carved in stone in the history of not only basketball but European sports with a fittingly poetic picture of the moment.
Let’s listen to Djordjevic’s prophetical words as he was just about to set foot on Bosphorus:
“I am dreaming of Istanbul. I slowly give rein to this vision: I am getting off the plane in Belgrade, with the trophy in my hand, as the captain of European champion. I don’t know if I can have a better moment than this in my life.”
Djordjevic was dreaming of Istanbul and EuroLeague trophy. Maybe he couldn’t believe his eyes as he wittnessed his dream coming true just ahead of himself. Maybe he realized the scale of his success and heroism in the airport, standing before thousands of Partizan fans.
25 years later, a young man of similar stature and talent sees the same dreams. His name is Bogdan Bogdanovic and he is about to turn 25 in just a matter of months. A proud graduate of Partizan basketball academy just like Djordjevic, he wants to be the biggest in European basketball, again just like him, under the command of Zeljko Obradovic.
Let’s listen to his own words:
“I am dreaming of being EuroLeague champion with Fenerbahçe jersey since the first day I have come to Istanbul.”
Perchance… Dreams are boundless. And when you look for glory in European basketball, the first place to look always Yugoslavia.
If there is even a little chance of such a climactic story to happen, it can only rise from Yugo roots and can only be wittnessed in the city of wildest dreams, Istanbul.
Just like it happened before.
Bogdan Bogdanovic says “I have never thought of this. It’s a phenomenal conincidence, actually. It would be great if it really happens but it’s too early to think about the final. I am fully focused on Real Madrid” when I ask him about this eerie chance of history repeating itself.
Is Bogdan Bogdanovic really going to be the champion? Who knows? Maybe he will not only be the champion but also make one.
Perhaps, he will not only decide the champion but write one of the biggest stories of sport by only a single shot, in Istanbul.
Like Sasha Djordjevic, a Serbian talent who was about to turn 25 in a matter of months, 25 years ago.