The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone was abuzz Friday afternoon with lovers of basketball and greats of the game filling up Marmara Forum in for a celebration of the sport and the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. The FanZone started to fill up as soon as doors opened at 10:00 local time, with the adidas 3x3 tournaments, full-court school competitions and Efes EuroLeague Cheerleaders shows providing action from the very beginning.
By the time the clock struck noon, the stands at FanZone's Center Court were overflowing in anticipation of the formal opening ceremony and One Team Legends and Exhibition Game featuring Ibrahim Kutluay, Joe Arlauckas, Nikola Vujcic, Patrick Femerling, Matjaz Smodis, Theodoros Papaloukas and Mirsad Turkcan. And no one left disappointed. After the Euroleague Basketball Legends and Ambassadors helped lead a One Team session with 15 children representing several One Team projects conducted in the city of Istanbul over the past year. Boys and girls from the Anadolu Efes, Darussafaka Dogus and Galatasaray Odeabank programs came together to play alongside the retired stars in a fun-filled basketball game.
"The FanZone is the chance for all the people in Istanbul to be part of the Final Four," Jordi Bertomeu, President and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, said. "We are proud to have our legends and ambassadors here today to enjoy basketball with the fans. Our sponsors have done a great job filling the FanZone here at Marmara Forum with unique activities. It's a great basketball party in the heart of Istanbul and it's for the fans, our number one priority."
Once the game ended, the EuroLeague Legends made sure to pose for photos with their One Team teammates before doing the same and signing autographs for the fans that lined up for a chance to meet their basketball heroes. For some, the opportunity to spend a moment with the basketball greats was a dream-come-true.
"It is very important to have events such as this One Team legends' game in the FanZone," Nikola Vujcic, Euroleague Basketball Ambassador, said. "It is important for the EuroLeague and for the popularization of EuroLeague among fans. It's the best when Ibrahim Kutluay and Mirsad Turkcan come out here on the court in Istanbul with us, because that means a lot to the people here."
Off the courts, fans were lining up at The Portal to get their digital avatar. Others were snapping up Final Four souvenirs at the EuroLeague Store, visiting the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Experience area, getting a feel for a EuroLeague press conference at the 7DAYS area, mimicking their favorite players at the Dogus Stay in the Game area, meeting cheerleaders at the EFES area, checking out the EuroLeague stars on the latest version of the NBA 2K video games on XBOX at the gaming zone and getting snacks from the Powerade and Tadim and pavilions. The booths operated by Detur and Nesine also ensured that the FanZone offered hours of fun for all visitors.
"We do a lot of special events and it is always nice, but it is the Final Four and it is so much more magnified," Joe Arlauckas, Euroleague Basketball Ambassador, said. "And I think the kids enjoy it even more, because there are people in the stands, cheering and yelling, and it is an interactive game almost."
Balls will be bouncing at the specially-built Marmara Forum courts all day with the different tournaments continuing before the courts open to all in the late evening hours. A show by Kral Radio Station DJs is set for 18:00, too! And the activities will continue on an action packed Saturday and Sunday at the FanZone!