By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
You may have heard those stories in the past, but if you are a millennial, it’s time for a small history lesson.
Istanbul 1992: Sasa Djordjevic makes a fastbreak three-pointer, Zeljko Obradovic wins the EuroLeague title in his first season as a head coach, and Partizan Belgrade makes history by getting the trophy.
Athens 1993: “Basketball has died tonight,” Benetton coach Petar Skansi said after his team, led by Tony Kukoc, was defeated by Boza Malkovic’s Limoges CSP in the EuroLeague title game that ended with the French side winning 59-55 for the country’s only continental crown.
Tel Aviv 1994: Corny Thompson hits the three-pointer, Zarko Paspalj can’t make the free throws, and Joventut Badalona – led by Zeljko Obradovic – beats heavily favored Olympiacos for the trophy.
Barcelona 1998: On his first season back on the bench of Virtus Bologna after five years with the Italian national team, Ettore Messina proves at 38 years of age that he is destined for greatness, as his team beats AEK in the final to become European champion.
It’s been more than 20 years since then, but all four of those teams are alive and kicking in the 7DAYS EuroCup. And all four won in Round 2.
Virtus and Partizan are now enjoying 2-0 starts in Groups A and B, respectively, while Limoges is second in Group B at 1-1 and Joventut second in Group C with a 1-1 record.
While some storied clubs of European basketball are now only part of the history books, things are different in Belgrade, Bologna, Limoges, and Badalona.
All are cities that live and breathe for basketball. It’s not a coincidence that Bologna has been named “Basket City” by the Italians and Limoges is equally famous for its basketball team as for its porcelain. Joventut is a hotbed of basketball talent, with a historic arena, too, and it goes without saying that the same applies to Belgrade.
It was only a matter of time for all those clubs to return to the European spotlight and this season in the EuroCup they are all seeking to be contenders.
Sasa Djordjevic – who made that most important three for Partizan back in 1992 – is now on the bench of Virtus Bologna, leading a duo of his point guard compatriots, Milos Teodosic and Stefan Markovic, as they aim together for a EuroLeague return.
Partizan started rebuilding under last season under coach Andrea Trinchieri, and things are going fine so far, with 24-year-old Rade Zagorac leading the show on the court.
Limoges has a Spanish coach, Alfred Julbe, who is considered a specialist in young talent and has created a new and exciting team.
And last but not least, Joventut is a young and exciting team led by Greek veteran Nikos Zisis.
Tradition can’t be enough and it certainly doesn’t play basketball.
Still, when you see those teams having a great start in a European competition, you can’t but feel that the continuity is there and legends, despite hardships, always leave on.