After ten Final Fours, the odds for the favourites were terrible. In 10 years, the team with the best record during the regular season had never won the trophy.
In 1998, Kinder Bologna ended that streak in emphatic fashion.
During seven months, the Italians cruised through the regular season, winning thirteen out of sixteen games and kept on going during the playoffs with a perfect 6-0 record that brought them all the way to the title.
To maintain such a high standard of basketball for such a long time requires a team with exceptional talent.
And Kinder was loaded with talent.
Preparing for the season, Bologna was particularly active on the trade market.
The first player to sign on was Predrag Danilovic, fresh out of two convincing seasons in the NBA. In the backcourt, he teamed up with French star Antoine Rigaudeau. Up front, Zoran Savic was preparing for his second season with the club while promising Radoslav Nesterovic held the starting center position. Finally, Hugo Sconochini, coming from Panathinaikos, completed this formidable starting five.
With so many weapons, Kinder was quickly labelled as a favourite for the title. This formidable machine was put in the hands of Ettore Messina who had just taken the Italian national team to the final of EuroBasket 97 in Barcelona.
A few months later, Messina had returned to the Catalan city, in the Palau San Jordi, for the Final Four. In the semi-final, Kinder faced an unexpected opponent, Partizan Belgrade, who had upset Olympiakos Piraeus and CSKA Moscow on its way to Barcelona.
The game was a no contest as Zoran Savic dominated his fellow countrymen in the paint leading Kinder to an impressive 22-point win.
The final could have been an Italian affair but AEK Athens decided otherwise by eliminating Benetton Treviso. Between the two best defensive teams in the EuroLeague the final was
a very controlled and hard fought battle. And once again, Kinder proved to be too much for the opposition, holding AEK to a miserable 29.2% shooting.
Kinder Bologna’s dream season ended on a winning note with the first victory for an Italian team since 1988.