|EuroBasket MVP Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Gasol - Spain dominated Europe in 2011, winning nine medals in total in both men's and women's competitions|
2011 was such an eventful year in the world of basketball that it would really be impossible to pick just a few representative moments of the entire year.
Nonetheless, there were certain events that made the headlines accross Europe and beyond and some of them will still be regarded as significant in the years to come.
31st March - The Green Machine
Led by the fantastic performances of Dimitris Diamantidis and Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos complete an amazing comeback from a game down and without home-court advantage to eliminate competition favourites Regal Barcelona in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague play-offs. Later on the Greeks will cap a great season by winning a Euroleague record sixth title in the Final Four which was coincidentally staged in the Catalan capital.
10th April - End Of An Era In the Women's Game
Spain's Alba Torrens and her Perfumerias Avenida team-mates end the hegemony of Sparta&K Moscow Region in the EuroLeague Women beating the four-time defending champions in the title game of the season's Final Four, in Ekaterinburg.
12th June - Dirk's Dream Comes True
Dirk Nowitzki fulfils his dream of winning the NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks. The only European ever to win the NBA Regular Season MVP award (in 2007) becomes the second European to win the NBA Finals MVP (after Tony Parker). One can almost hear neutral fans around the world breathing a collective sigh of relief - Dirk, one of the best players of all time and... a really nice guy, has finally made it.
1st July - Lockout!
The moment that many basketball fans on both sides of the Atlantic dreaded finally arrives as the NBA owners and the players cannot agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The lockout will last until 26 November, when the players and owners reach a tentative deal, including a 66-game regular season, with games commencing on Christmas Day.
3rd July - Turkey's First
At the EuroBasket Women in Poland, it is business as usual for Russia who return to the throne after a 4-year absence but it is the finalists Turkey who steal the headlines as this is the country's first ever silverware in the senior category.
10th July - Valanciunas, Lithuania Rock The World
A stratospherical Jonas Valanciunas (top tournament scorer and rebounder with 23 ppg and 13.9 rpg) leads Lithuania to victory over Serbia in the Final of the U19 World Championship. Russia win bronze to complete the all-European podium. Valanciunas will go on to play with the senior team at the EuroBasket, his partnership with veteran point guard Saras Jasikevicius offering some of the most memorable moments of the tournament.
18th July - Not In Nikola's Backyard
Ukraine threaten to upset U20 European Championship hosts Spain but Nikola Mirotic explodes for 41 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks to almost single-handedly win the game and send a message to multiple recipients: He will do anything it takes to ensure Spain conquer the title, and conquer it unbeaten. They went on to do exactly that, and in the process Mirotic averaged a double-double in points and rebounds and established a new tournament record in average points to be named the MVP almost unanimously.
|Dirk Nowitzki not only answered his critics by conquering the NBA title but he did it his way, staying faithful to Dallas|
31st August - Celebrate Basketball
The biggest event in European basketball history tips off. 24 teams, 32 NBA stars, 2,000 volunteers (out of more than 6,000 applicants!) as well as... 2,172 square meters of stickers and 42,000 people bouncing a basketball simulteanously to establish a Guinnness world record, are some of the numbers that contributed to an unforgettable EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and definitely the first ever whose official song became an international hit!
16th September - The Bo & Co Miracle
Bo McCallebb and his FYR of Macedonia team-mates stun hosts Lithuania and the whole world to make the semi-finals of EuroBasket 2011. They will later fall to eventual winners Spain and lose the bronze-medal battle to Russia to finish 4th, but nothing can take away the fact that the result is one of the greatest sporting surprises of all time.
18th September - The Spanish Armada
2011 might be the year of the rabbit in China but, in Europe, this was the year of the raging bull. Spain conquers gold in Lithuania to end with nine medals (six gold, one silver and two bronze) in 11 participations in the year's European and World Youth Championships and EuroBaskets. This is the Iberian powerhouse's best ever medal tally in one single year.
16th November - AK-47 Got His Gun
Andrei Kirilenko seems unstoppable in the early months of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. In Week 5 he records only three field goal attempts during 35 minutes on the floor in CSKA's 77-66 victory against Unicaja, but he still manages a performance index rating of 39 - a season high. Kirilenko finishes the night with 17 points (2-of-3 from the floor and 12-of-13 free throws) while adding 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 steals, 3 blocks and 7 fouls drawn.
22nd November - Deron Hits 50
Deron Williams comes out guns blazing in his last EuroChallenge game for Besiktas and scores 50 points on 73.9% shooting from the floor (including 7-of-10 from behind the arc) against BG Göttingen. He will then return to the US and the Nets, having left enough memories in such a short period of time for Besiktas to retire his jersey.
20th December - Last Of The Mohicans?
Predrag Stojakovic, a natural-born sharpshooter and perhaps one of the last representatives of a unique "European-style" breed, retires from basketball at the age of 34, a few months after winning the NBA title with the Mavericks. Peja came to prominence in the mid-90's playing for PAOK in Thessaloniki, where he arrrived at the age of 16, escaping the war in former Yugoslavia.
And finally an... honourable mention for the least expected basketball moment of the year:
7th October - Schweini's Jump Shot
FC Bayern and Germany midfielder Sebastian Schweinsteiger celebrates his goal against Turkey in a EURO 2012 Qualifier with a basketball jump shot-like move to remind fans all over Europe just how much of a basketball enthusiast a football player can be. The jump shot has become his trademark goal celebration in games with both the national team and his club.