In seeking to become as much of a force in European club basketball as it has been for ages in soccer, FC Bayern Munich could benefit by taking a page from the book of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, its Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Game of the Week opponent for Round 2.
In basketball, Bayern is a newcomer at this level, while Panathinaikos is a legendary club whose success over recent decades makes it a source of inspiration from whom a lot can be learned.
A 9-15 overall record in the 2013-14 season marked a fine Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debut for Bayern. Its five victories in that year's Top 16 set the high-water mark until then for wins by any German team that deep in a EuroLeague season. Bayern's experience that season paved the way for the team to claim the 2014 domestic crown, its first in nearly 60 years.
Last spring, Bayern was back to claim the German League title again, a victory that secured a place in this edition of the EuroLeague, a season that will serve as the club's launch pad for its aspirations to join the elite of the competition.
That's because Bayern is also positioned front and center in the EuroLeague expansion to 18 teams that will take place at the start of the 2019-20 season. The ECA Shareholders Meeting earlier this season bestowed upon Bayern a license to fill one of two new spots for the first two years of expansion, until 2021. Being assured of at least three consecutive seasons in the EuroLeague gives Bayern, for the first time, the kind of solid foothold in the continental elite that the club is has long enjoyed in soccer.
With every great team on the continent coming through town for the foreseeable future, plus a new, 10,000-seat arena on the way in Munich, the bases are set for Bayern to take basketball to new heights in Germany. And the club has already worked to put many of the ingredients for success in place; developing a passionate and devoted fan base through innovative marketing that draws in strong sponsors; and attracting big-name players and coaches who love the way the organization treats its basketball professionals.
Bayern is building a solid, even enviable, foundation for success, and it would be no surprise to see the club climb the ranks in the EuroLeague sooner rather than later. Here, again, the example of Panathinaikos comes in handy.
Ever since the Greens really reached the big time in the early 1990s, there has been no turning back. Their six EuroLeague trophies between 1996 and 2011 are double those of any other team in the 30-year-old Final Four era. And even when not winning the title, Panathinaikos has always been very close, missing the playoffs just four times this century.
The tireless effort that Panathinaikos has put forth to be so consistent will be familiar to Bayern from its long-running soccer success, so it's not even a question of imitation. The efforts are already underway in Munich to build success that is sustainable over time. Now it's just a matter of when Bayern seizes its moment. As soon as that happens, however, this is one club that will not be at the top one day and gone tomorrow. Bayern's steady climb is destined to produce a success story with staying power.