Three-time Euroleague champion Matjaz Smodis has left a huge imprint on the rich history of the Russian powerhouse that is CSKA Moscow. A leader on and off the court, Smodis was an irreplaceable piece of the CSKA machine that reached four consecutive Euroleague championship games last decade and brought to Moscow the last two of team's six continental titles.
A native of Slovenia, Smodis was the quintessential modern power forward. His perfect mix of finesse near the basket and a sweet shooting far from it did not impede him from standing out prominently as a bruiser on the boards, too. Smodis perfectly complemented big man David Andersen in the CSKA frontcourt and knew how to work in great harmony with star perimeter players J.R. Holden, Theo Papaloukas and Trajan Langdon. He was a darling of head coach Ettore Messina, with whom Smodis won his first Euroleague title for Kinder Bologna in 2001. Five years later, with both of them arriving together to Moscow, CSKA won Euroleague crowns in 2006 – marking the club's first such title in 35 years – and in 2008, both against Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. They also finished as runners-up, by two points each time, to Panathinaikos Athens in 2007 and 2009.
In 11 Euroleague seasons, Smodis appeared in 170 games and remains one of just seven players to have tallied at least 1,800 points and 650 rebounds in his career. Those numbers could have been greater, too, had it not been for injuries that caused Smodis to miss a total of 40 games over three seasons between 2007 and 2010. Nevertheless, during his six years in Moscow, from 2005 to 2011, Smodis played in five Euroleague Final Fours. He is tied for the sixth-most total points in the Final Four this century. Moreover, Smodis helped the team to six consecutive Russian League titles and three more national cups, making him one of the most celebrated players to ever wear CSKA uniform, a fact that was driven home when he was named the first non-Russian team captain in club history.
Moments in Time
1961: A FIRST CROWN
ASK Riga had dominated European basketball for three years and won Game 1 of the 1961 two-way finals in Moscow, but CSKA took Game 2 62-87 for its first-ever Euroleague trophy.
1963: THE LONGEST FINAL
CSKA and Real Madrid faced each other in the 1963 Euroleague finals and traded 17-point victories, which forced a do-or-die Game 3, which CSKA won 99-80 in Moscow.
1969: DOUBLE OVERTIME
In the only Euroleague final to ever reach double-overtime, CSKA downed Real Madrid 103-99, as center Vladimir Andreev starred with 37 points. It was CSKA's third Euroleague title.
2006: BACK TO GLORY DAYS
After several years of being close, CSKA returned to the Euroleague final in 2006 and won it in style, dethroning back-to-back champion Maccabi Tel Aviv 73-69 to win its first continental crown in 35 years!
2008: A CELEBRATION IN MADRID
CSKA lived up to the expectations in a very special Final Four, which celebrated 50 years of European club basketball, by downing Maccabi 79-91 in the title game in Madrid. Déjà vu in 2015?