Azerbaijan's basketball history dates back to the early 1920's. Foreign oil companies introduced sports like football, gymnastics and basketball in the Caucasus region, helping to develop a sports culture and organised sports leagues. With the first basketball teams being founded in Baku, the sport gradually spread across the country, with sports clubs in other cities and regions establishing basketball teams.
With Azerbaijan being incorporated in the Soviet Union from 1920 to1991, the Azerbaijan Basketball Federation (Azerbaycan Basketbol Federasiyasi/ABF) was founded shortly after the country's independency, affiliating with FIBA in 1994. Azerbaijan made their international debut one year later, competing in the Qualifying Round for EuroBasket Women 1997.
The men's national team made their first appearance in a FIBA Europe competition in 2001, trying to qualify to EuroBasket 2003. Azerbaijan failed to win a game in the Qualifying Round, but had soon found the key to success by naming Rimas Kurtinaitis head coach of the national team in 2003.
At that stage, the renowned Lithuanian coach, who had retired as a player in 1997, was already coaching at club level in Azerbaijan. Being at the helm of Baku-based Gala BK from 2002 to 2006, Kurtinaitis led the club to the national championship in each of the four seasons, while developing teenagers into national team players.
|Azerbaijan were crowned champions at the European Championship Division C in 2006, defending their title two years later|
The first success for the national team came in 2005, when Azerbaijan took the trophy at the inaugural Islamic Solidarity Games in Medina, defeating Algeria in the final, 82-69. Azerbaijan topped the result in the coming years, being crowned back-to-back champions at the European Championship Division C in 2006 and 2008.
"We won the Muslim Olympics last year so this is two victories in two years," coach Kurtinaitis said after winning the first title in 2006. "Now we can make a big step towards the future - we have a young team of teenagers and this is a very rich country so the future looks good."
Azerbaijan have indeed made further steps forward, proving their potential last summer in the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013. The team slightly missed out on their first ever Division A tournament, with their qualification hopes only being ended on the final game day in Group B.
STATS & FACTS
Date of foundation: 1994
President: Nadir Nasibov
Secretary General: Gakhraman Mammadyarov
- U18 Men: 1,670
- U18 Women: 382
- Senior Men: 380
- Senior Women: 86
Registered clubs: 32
Registered coaches: 50
NATIONAL TEAM ACHIEVEMENTS
2004 European Promotion Cup for Men in Andorra: 4th place
2006 European Promotion Cup for Men in Albania: 1st place
2008 European Championship Men Division C in Scotland: 1st place