Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's 2018-2019 season witnessed historic finals with two Turkish teams reaching the Final Four at the same time at Europe's top club- level basketball tournament. CSKA Moscow emerged as the winner against the Turkish team Anadolu Efes in the final game in Spain's Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, in which Europe's top club-level basketball teams compete and which has an audience of 2 billion people all across the world, witnessed a first in this year. Raising the level of excitement alongside the number of competing teams to 16 with its new format, the tournament reached the finals following 7 months of rigorous struggle. The Final Four emerged as Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Beko, CSKA Moskow and Real Madrid. The existence of two Turkish teams, Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahçe Beko, among the four basketball giants of Europe, excited the attention of Turkish basketball lovers on Spain's Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz between the dates of May 17-19. The city's Fernando Buesa Arena was almost like a Turkish sports hall during the tournement.
Fenerbahçe Beko, who finished the regular season at the top of the table and qualified for the Final Four by defeating Zalgiris Kaunas in the playoff series, was rightly proud of qualifying to the finals for the fifth year in a row. And the team’s greatest advantage was, of course, coach Zeljko Obradovic, who had won nine Turkish EuroLeague championships with five different teams.
Fenerbahce Beko's semifinal rival on May 17 was Anadolu Efes, who finished fourth in the regular season and eliminated Barcelona Lassa with 3-2 at the end of the fifth match in the most challenging playoff series of the year. Who would be the winner of the Turkish night of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four? A staunch representative of team play, Obradovic’s team with steady but many missing players, or the team of Ergin Ataman, who finished Turkish Airlines EuroLeague at the bottom of the table last season and started this season with nine new players on his team?
As Fenerbahçe Beko lost Lauvergne and Datome, one of the most important players for the team, due to injuries, and couldn’t make use of Vesely and Kalinic due to lack of matches even though they were back from their injuries, Andolu Efes dominated the game with Larkin and Mimic and secured its place at the final with a score of 92-73.
The second semifinal match at the Fernando Buesa Arena was between CSKA Moscow, who fin- ished the regular season in the second place and eliminated Kirolbet Baskonia in the playoff series on their way to Spain, and "Defending Champion" title-holders Real Madrid, who finished the regular season in the third place and eliminated Panathinaikos with 3-0 in the playoff series.
And then, it was time for the final, where the best of 2019 was to be determined. As it was also a meaningful date since the final coincided with the 100th anniversary of May 19, 1919, an important National Day in Turkey, Anadolu Efes wanted to crown a dreamlike season with a trophy. But the rivals were no pushovers. Anadolu Efes had lost both matches in the regular season against CSKA. Moreover, although Anadolu Efes tried their best to match the Russian team, which was a highly efficient team with very experienced players and had an extremely high shooting percentage, they failed to stop Will Clayburn, who had the best night of his career out of the three-point line. So, CSKA Moscow left the court as winners with a score of 91-83 and finished the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as the champions.
Even though Turkey couldn’t win the title at the Final Four, where two Turkish teams contested for the first time in history, it was a dreamlike Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season for the Turkish people. The Turkish influence, which started with Turkish Airlines, in Europe’s top-tier professional basketball competition has grown even more with the performance of Fenerbahçe Beko in the last five seasons. This season, it peaked with Anadolu Efes and the overall winner was Turkish basketball.
Thank you, Turkish Airlines, Fenerbahçe Beko, and Anadolu Efes.