Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, the top-tier European professional basketball club competition, continues to garner a lot of interest with the Final Four games in May.
When the member teams of ULEB left FIBA during the 2000-2001 season and started competing by founding their own organization under the name of EuroLeague, could those who shape European basketball have foreseen today? EuroLeague, which was gradually growing, needed visionary, strong brands that had the potential of growth, development, and collaboration in order to become the most important professional basketball club competition in Europe. This is where it crossed paths with Turkish Airlines.
EuroLeague Basketball signed its first-ever title sponsorship agreement with Turkish Airlines, which has always supported sports, in 2010. Next step was to extend this strategic partnership until 2020. It seems that this successful collaboration will continue to grow as nowadays we rarely see such harmonious partnerships.
The best teams of Europe have been in fierce competition with each other since October 2018 in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and are now nearing the most exciting and last part of the season. At the end of a 30-game regular season participated by 16 teams, the top eight teams earned the right to take part in the playoffs. The competitive playoff series which included Fenerbahçe Beko, CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid, Anadolu Efes, Barcelona Lassa, Panathinaikos, Kirolbet Baskonia, and Žalgiris Kaunas gave the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four ticket to only four teams: last year’s champion Real Madrid which defeated Panathinaikos 3-0; our representative Fenerbahçe Beko defeating Žalgiris Kaunas; and CSKA Moscow defeating Kirolbet Baskonia 3-1. Held in Vitoria-Gasteiz between May 17 and 19, Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four has three finalists confirmed: Fenerbahçe Beko, CSKA Moscow (Russia), and Real Madrid (Spain) all experienced the pride of defending their dreams from the beginning of the season. The competition for the last ticket to the Final Four between Anadolu Efes and Barcelona Lassa resulted in 2-2 which led to the fifth game in Istanbul, the home city of Anadolu Efes, deciding the winner. However, while this game was held on May 1, the current issue of Skylife was already printed and placed in seat pockets for readers to enjoy. Due to the unfortunate timing of the game schedule, we were unable to include the fourth finalist team in our article.
Let’s talk a bit more about the three teams that have already qualified for the Turkish Airlines Final Four.
Fenerbahçe Beko: The biggest advantage of the navy-yellow team, which played in the last five Final Fours, is its head coach Željko Obradović who has always maintained the roster and team structure, knows how to facilitate his players in the most efficient way, and is a true collector of cups. The team ranked first in the 30-game regular season and also broke a record by winning all its home games. We’ll see if the navy-yellow team, which is heading for Spain as a Final Four favorite, can achieve its second championship.
CSKA Moscow: The Russian representative has been present at 16 out of 17 Final Fours since 2003 but only managed to win three. Its led by Dimitris Itoudis, who was the assistant coach of Obradović when he previously coached Panathinaikos. CSKA Moscow is the one with the most Final Four experience among this year's teams. Will Clyburn is the team's key offence player. Head coach Itoudis assigns Clyburn to the number four position at EuroLeague games though we’re used to seeing him play as the number three. Players like Nando De Colo, Daniel Hackett, Sergio Rodríguez, and Cory Higgings can be quite hard to stop on their good days.
Real Madrid: The students of Pablo Laso who head to Fernando Buesa Arena as the current champions are truly the representatives of the Spanish école with great three-point shooting team and high-tempo basketball. Real Madrid has attended seven Final Four tournaments in the last nine years and won two of them. Due to ambiguity regarding Sergio Llull’s participation after a month-long injury, Real Madrid’s performance can be based on the duo of Fabien Causeur and Facundo Campazzo. It seems Rudy Fernández and Jaycee Carroll will have more responsibility on their shoulders and that the team will need the effective play of Gustavo Ayón and Walter Tavares in the painted area more than ever.
Despite these significant factors and the difference between teams in terms of power and quality, what really makes the Final Four interesting is that anything is possible. On the days of the games, the performance of the players will play a major role in determining the winner. Unfortunately, mistakes during these games are irretrievable. That’s why the evening of May 19 is laden with surprises, making the event all the more exciting for all basketball fans.