|06 May 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Back to the Euroleague Final Four with Olympiacos: Vassilis Spanoulis|
There is no shortage of non-European -mainly American - stars plying their trade on Turkish Airlines Euroleague courts.
None the less, the verdict of fans and media professionals has once again been that European players were dominant in the competition, as reflected by the Euroleague announcement of its First and Second Team for the season on Monday.
Dimitris Diamantidis (Panathinaikos), Vassilis Spanoulis (Olympiacos), Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid), Ante Tomic (FC Barcelona) and Nenad Krstic (CSKA Moscow) make up the Euroleague First Team of 2012/13; Milos Teodosic (CSKA Moscow), Juan Carlos Navarro (FC Barcelona), Victor Khryapa (CSKA Moscow), Nikola Mirotic (Real Madrid) and Shawn James (Maccabi Tel Aviv), as the only non-European player, are on the Second Team.
With the exceptions of Mirotic and Tomic, there is one common thread that unites all European players on this 10-man dream squad.
The two senior Greek internationals, the two senior Spanish internationals (Mirotic has only played at U20 level with Spain) and the one Russian in the mix have all conquered EuroBasket gold with their respective national teams in the last eight years.
The two Serbians on the other hand were the linchpins of the Dusan Ivkovic side that reached the final of EuroBasket 2009 and fell to Spain.
Tomic and Mirotic, who have still not experienced the biggest game of European basketball, are not only the youngest on the all-Euroleague team (the Real Madrid power forward, at 22, is the youngest ever player on this list) but also have had to put up exceptional numbers during the season to make part of this company.
|Nenad Krstic will lead CSKA Moscow into the Final Four|
The Croatian and the Montenegrin-born Spaniard are also playing for perhaps the two most famous sport clubs on a global scale and have the chance to display their talents week in and week out in the most prestigious national championship, the Spanish Liga Endesa.
There are other European players that have had a fantastic Euroleague season, like the Croatian duo of Bogdan Bogdanovic (Fenerbahce) and Luka Zoric (Unicaja Malaga) but their teams did not reach the play-offs of the competition.
The case of three of the veterans that earned the public's vote is quite telling in terms of what consecrates a player in the collective fans' conscience.
Diamantidis, Navarro and Spanoulis, for different reasons, did not have their best season in the Euroleague this year in terms of statistical contribution, but they are considered as modern legends of the game.
The public have seen them dominate opponents, single-handedly change the course of games and lead their team-mates to victory on numerous occasions, with both club and country.
Most of all, the memory of these players leading their national team to the top of the EuroBasket podium has been forever inscribed in the memory of basketball fans.
One could almost argue that their selection reflects a tendency to look for a safe pair of hands, go back to the tried and tested, in times of crisis.
Unlike last season, when FIBA Europe Player of the Year for 2012 Andrei Kirilenko was elected almost unanimously as the MVP, this time around there is no undisputed favourite for the honour as the Euroleague prepares to announce this year's winner on Thursday in London, ahead of the Final Four.
The only certainty at this point is that - with the exception of Diamantidis, who has retired from international duty - there is a good chance that we will see the remaining eight European stars compete at the EuroBasket in Slovenia in September.
And there, Tomic and Mirotic (should he play for either Spain or Montenegro) might finally get their chance to play in the biggest game on the European stage.