Best of the Decade: Team Achievements

Dec 31, 2019 by Print
Best of the Decade: Team Achievements

It’s all about winning in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the decade that has just come to a close saw seven different teams take the crown. Along the way, there were many great team achievements, some of which we may never see matched. Let's tip our hats to some of the most important and most impressive feats accomplished by EuroLeague teams from January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2019.

CSKA's 8 straight Final Fours

CSKA Moscow was the winningest team of the decade with 222 victories in the EuroLeague, which was a healthy margin over the second-winningest team, Real Madrid with 206 wins. Even more impressive than CSKA's win total was the amazing consistency the team has displayed by reaching the Final Four in all but one season, including an ongoing streak of eight straight seasons. CSKA's modern dynasty has seen it win with different coaches and star players, but the management and fans have made sure the soul of the club remained unchanged.

Evgeny Pashutin guided CSKA to its first Final Four of the decade in 2010, when Trajan Langdon and Ramunas Siskauskas were its top performers. After a one-year Final Four hiatus, Jonas Kaslauskas coached CSKA to the 2012 championship game led by Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic. Coach Ettore Messina ran the show the next two seasons with Victor Khryapa and Milos Teodosic taking charge on the floor. Dimitris Itoudis took the coaching reins in the summer of 2014 and under his leadership and with Teodosic and Nando De Colo starring, CSKA reeled off five more Final Four appearances including taking the crown in 2016 and 2019.

Real Madrid's 10th title

This decade was the one in which Real Madrid reestablished itself as a true European superpower, like in the 1960s when it captured EuroLeague glory four times and the '70s when it won two more continental crowns. Real competed in seven Final Fours and reached the championship game in four of those, including its EuroLeague triumphs in 2015 and 2018. What separated the second of those crowning achievements from the other – as well as all EuroLeague celebrations in the competition's illustrious history – is that on May 20, 2018, when Los Blancos bested Fenerbahce Istanbul 85-80 on the hardwood at Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia, Real became the first team to win the EuroLeague 10 times!

It capped a glorious season in which the team was led by superstars (Luka Doncic was the EuroLeague MVP, Final Four MVP and EuroLeague Rising Star) and veteran role players (Trey Thompkins's tip-in with 18 seconds left in the championship game all but clinched the title). Real's spot as the club with the most crowns is safe for now; CSKA Moscow is second with eight titles followed by Panathinaikos Athens and Maccabi Tel Aviv with six each.

Real dominated the awards, too

Another impressive feat accomplished by Real Madrid was that three of its players were named EuroLeague MVP. Sergio Rodriguez was the first to do so in 2014. He was followed by Sergio Llull in 2017 and Luka Doncic the following year. The nine times Real players won MVP of the month was also the most in the decade. Nikola Mirotic (December 2011 and October 2013) and Sergio Llull (April 2013 and November 2016) each were named MVP of the month twice and Rudy Fernandez (February 2015), Gustavo Ayon (December 2015), Luka Doncic (October 2017), Edy Tavares (October 2018) and Facundo Campazzo (April 2019) captured the trophy once. Real also dominated the Rising Star Award with the award going to a member of the team on four occasions: Nikola Mirotic won it in 2011 and 2012 and Doncic in 2017 and 2018.

Olympiacos goes back-to-back

Three clubs won a pair of EuroLeague crowns over the past decade, but only one team did so in back-to-back seasons. Olympiacos Piraeus deserves credit not only for winning the 2012 and 2013 championships, but for the unforgettable ways in which the Reds did so. At the 2012 Final Four in Istanbul, CSKA Moscow led by 19 late in the third quarter before Olympiacos went on a furious comeback. When CSKA forward Ramunas Siskauskas missed 2 free throws with his team up 1 and 9.7 seconds remaining, Olympiacos turned to Vassilis Spanoulis for one final possession. He took the ball up the court, penetrated and drew the attention of the CSKA defense before dumping a pass to Georgios Printezis whose one-handed floater hit the bottom of the net to give Olympiacos a wild-come-from-behind 61-62 victory.

The "Comeback Kids" were not done. A year later in London, Olympiacos disposed of CSKA in the semifinals 52-69, but trailed by that margin against Real Madrid, 10-27, through one quarter of the championship game. The Reds narrowed the gap in the second quarter and 3 three-pointers in as many trips down the court from Spanoulis put an awful first half behind him. Another Spanoulis triple capped a 9-1 start to the fourth quarter that put Olympiacos ahead for good en route to a 100-88 victory and Final Four MVP honors for the third time – and second year in a row – for the Reds' talisman. It was the heart of a glorious period, which included five championship game appearances over eight years, which Olympiacos fans will never forget.

The rise of Fenerbahce

From the time Zeljko Obradovic landed in Istanbul to coach Fenerbahce in the summer of 2013, the club has never been the same. Sure it took one season to get things rolling, but once the momentum was rolling in the right direction, Fenerbahce became an elite force. Behind EuroLeague MVP Nemanja Bjelica and Andrew Goudelock, Fenerbahce reached its first EuroLeague Final Four in 2015. Jan Vesely and Ekpe Udoh shined the following season as Fenerbahce reached the championship game in Berlin before falling to CSKA Moscow in overtime. The 2017 Final Four was at home in Istanbul, where Udoh and Bogdan Bogdanovic starred as Fenerbahce made history by capturing the title. Real Madrid denied Fenerbahce the chance to go back-to-back when it won the 2018 title game in Belgrade. Last season EuroLeague MVP Vesely and co. made it five straight Final Four appearances, but after three straight championship game appearances, they were felled by crosstown rival Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the semifinals.

Efes from worst to almost first

Olympiacos is the team best known for its in-game comebacks, but no team completed a successful offseason rebuild quite like Anadolu Efes Istanbul of 2018-19. The previous season had been an ugly one for Efes, which started the season with five straight defeats and suffered an eight-game losing streak in the final third of the campaign to wind up 7-23 and dead last in the standings. It would be a different story for Coach Ergin Ataman and his new-look squad when they took the court in the fall of 2018. An 8-2 start had Efes tied for third place a third of the way through the regular season. Efes's eventual 20-10 record placed it fourth, after which it knocked out FC Barcelona in a grueling playoff series. Then Shane Larkin took charge at the Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz, where Efes eliminated archrival Fenerbahce to reach the championship game. Efes was unable to complete its quest for the crown, but its worst-to-almost-first season was the first such run in competition history and won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The Cinderellas

The giants of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague tend to make their presence felt. Sixty-five percent of the spots at Final Fours over the past decade were claimed by four teams: CSKA Moscow with nine, Real Madrid with seven and Olympiacos Piraeus and Fenerbahce Istanbul with five each. A handful of other spots went to other tried-and-true powerhouses such as FC Barcelona (three), Maccabi Tel Aviv (two) and Panathinaikos Athens (two). However, there were a few Cinderella stories that should be told, too.

In chronological order, the first came in 2010, when a Partizan Belgrade squad led by Bo McCalebb, Aleks Maric and Jan Vesely (the latter of whom, for most of the season, was still a teenager) finished above defending champion Panathinaikos in the Top 16 and eliminated Maccabi in the playoffs to reach the Final Four in Paris. The run came to an end with an overtime loss to Olympiacos in the semifinals, but Partizan and its fans sure left their mark. Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar played only two EuroLeague seasons in the decade, but made them both count. After reaching the Top 16 in 2014, Lokomotiv outdid everyone's expectations in 2016 behind Malcolm Delaney and Anthony Randolph. The team finished second in its Top 16 group and survived a do-or-die Game 4 of the playoffs in Barcelona before winning the fifth game at home to reach the Final Four for the first time in club history. Then there was Zalgiris Kaunas's magical 2018. Under the tutelage of Sarunas Jasikevicius, the Lithuanian champs resembled an elite fighting unit and together they finished sixth in the regular season before overpowering Olympiacos in the playoffs. Zalgiris put up a fight against Fenerbahce in the semifinals in Belgrade before bowing out. Zalgiris threatened a repeat performance in 2019 when it won six in a row to sneak into the playoffs on the final round of the regular season and snatched a road win from Fenerbahce in Game 2 of the playoffs, but eventually fell in four games.