On This Day, 2017: Fenerbahce is champ for the first time

May 21, 2020 by Euroleague.net Print
On This Day, 2017: Fenerbahce is champ for the first time

The 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game featured Fenerbahce Istanbul playing for the title in its home city at Sinan Erdem Dome in front of thousands of fans against one of the most experienced teams of its era, Olympiacos Piraeus, which had multiple two-time champions on its roster. Fenerbahce defeated Real Madrid 84-75 in one of the semifinals behind 18 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists from Ekpe Udoh. Olympiacos defeated CSKA Moscow for the fourth time in Final Four action since 2012, 78-82. Vassilis Spanoulis, Georgios Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou led the winners with 14 points apiece.

Fenerbahce: strong start, wild finish

It took Fenerbahce 5 seconds to ignite its fans with a reverse alley-oop dunk by Jan Vesely courtesy of an Udoh pass, which quickly became an iconic moment in Final Four history. Nikola Kalinic buried 3 triples in the first quarter, but Ali Muhammad and Bogdan Bogdanovic also struck from downtown to boost their team's lead to 26-18 after 10 minutes. Udoh soon made it a double-digit game, 35-25, but Printezis and Vangelis Mantzaris brought Olympiacos within 39-34 at halftime. Muhammad and Kostas Sloukas kept Fenerbahce ahead early in the second half before Luigi Datome scored 7 points late in the third quarter for a 60-48 advantage after 30 minutes. Fenerbahce quickly boosted its margin to 68-50 on a three-pointer by Pero Antic, giving Fenerbahce fans plenty of time to celebrate a historic win.

Changing Turkish basketball history

Fenerbahce became the first Turkish team to win the EuroLeague. It came close the previous year, but CSKA forced overtime and downed Fenerbahce 96-101 in the championship game. Only one Turkish player had won the EuroLeague in the past: Ibrahim Kutluay with Panathinaikos Athens in 2002. The late 2010s were the start of a golden era for Turkish basketball. In 2015, Fenerbahce reached the Final Four and thus became the first Turkish team in 14 years to get as far in the competition. In 2016, Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul was the first Turkish team to win the 7DAYS EuroCup and Fenerbahce lifted the EuroLeague trophy a year later. In 2018, Darussafaka Istanbul also won the EuroCup and in 2019, Anadolu Efes Istanbul went all the way to the EuroLeague championship game, where it lost against CSKA.

About the game

Fenerbahce beat Olympiacos 80-64 to lift the EuroLeague trophy. Kalinic and Bogdanovic led the winners with 17 points apiece. Datome scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half to help Fenerbahce pull away and Udoh posted 10 points, 9 rebounds and a EuroLeague championship game record 5 blocked shots to earn Final Four MVP honors. Head coach Zeljko Obradovic added more hardware to his impressive legacy by lifting the trophy for the ninth team with five different teams. Sloukas and Antic won their third EuroLeague title together after back-to-back crowns with Olympiacos in 2012 and 2013. Fenerbahce outrebounded Olympiacos 40-30 and blocked 9 shots in a dominant effort in the paint. Khem Birch led Olympiacos with 14 points.

What happened next

Fenerbahce returned to the championship game the next season with a chance to become the third team to successfully defend the title this century. It didn't happen, however, as Real downed Fenerbahce 85-80 and Luka Doncic was chosen as the 2018 Final Four MVP. Fenerbahce also made it to the Final Four in 2019 where it lost to Efes in the semifinals. Olympiacos has not returned to the Final Four since 2017. Seven of the players who won the 2017 championship with Fenerbahce: team captain Melih Mahmutoglou, Sloukas, Vesely, Kalinic, Muhammed, Datome and Ahmet Duverioglu plus Coach Obradovic. Spanoulis went on to become the EuroLeague's all-time leader in points and assists.