(If you want more of Basketball Champions League stuff or like data visualization, check the semifinals review out)
After a couple of three-pointers and Niang’s instant presence had taken Tenerife away despite Theodore’s effort to give his team the leading they needed – with 6 points and 2 assists in consecutive plays, Kulig made a two-pointer and got Banvit at a 1-point deficit with 123 seconds left for the Final, and the first ever FIBA BCL season, to go. Davin White made the two free throws he was awarded after a foul by Kulig and then hit a three in front of Furkan Korkmaz’s face, after the Turkish youngster had missed his shot, to bring Iberostar Tenerife at a somehow safe 6-points lead with no more than 70 seconds left.
Coach Saso Filipovski called a timeout. He had to call a timeout, as this now was a “mission impossible” kind of scenario for his team. Chappel missed the three-pointer but Orelik was there to grab the offensive rebound and make the basket to keep his team alive. Tenerife, as expected, ran the clock down, Doornekamp’s shot behind the line didn’t go down and, after looking at the replay, the referees decided it was Abromaitis that touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. Banvit Basketbol Kulubu was down by 4 points but at least they had the ball and 17 seconds to give this a last go at. And who else to try imitate Tom Cruise in this Turkish version of Mission Impossible than Jordan Theodore?
Unfortunately for him and to the grant pleasure of most of the people in Pabellón Insular Santiago Martín his left-handed layup attempt fell short, Abromaitis grabbed the ball successfully this time and Club Baloncesto 1939 Canarias were the 2017, and first ever, FIBA Basketball Champions League winners!
“How was the game?”, you may ask. The game wasn’t what you call “fun to watch”, it definitely wasn’t (especially in contrast to a very entertaining 3rd place game that took place a couple of hours before). But it definitely was a game that you are happy you watched – full of nerves from the players at the beginning, full of moments that could be turning points here and there, full of a crowd passionate on its own fine way. And this “fine way” is the main reason I am writing this piece.
I really, really, hope that somebody from FIBA has captured this because it deserves to exist and be admired in multimedia form but in any case I am going to do my best to describe it in words: A couple of minutes after the final whistle of the final and when you would expect an arena full of Tenerife fans to just be waiting for the losing side to receive their medals so they can scream their throats out the moment their team gets the trophy, us “neutrals” heard something that made us start looking at each other in question. The whole house was applauding the Turkish team! And when I write “applauding” I don’t mean “simply clapping”. I mean people in the stadium, most of them if not all, actually chanting their opponent’s name – in a sweet and beautiful “Ban-vit! Ban-vit!” rhythm. “Fine” comes from “finesse”, right?
Those moments were “the icing on the cake” of a weekend full of fairplay and respect between all the members of every team, of losing sides admitting their opponents’ superiority and of winning sides congratulating them back for their efforts throughout the whole season. But not just that, as losing sides showed there is much more than just winning or losing:
and winning sides proved their counterparts spot on:
All in all, FIBA’s Basketball Champions League was much much better than most of us thought it would be and it’s most probably going to be better next season without last minute team additions, a more stable format and the lessons of this season’s experience. It certainly still falls short on competing with the EuroCup, though, and it doesn’t look like it will manage to get there anytime soon. Yet – and I may be writing this under the influence of the incredible friendliness and great spirits of the people of Tenerife Island, but it holds true nonetheless – following some teams throughout the season and attending the Final Four as a person that likes basketball was an experience 101% worth having. I am pretty sure the same applies to other basketball and team fans too – look at the people that travelled all the way from Venezia, for example – and players and staff of the teams had only great words for it.
So, maybe when I go back home in the island of Corfu, Greece nobody will be impressed hearing that the Final Four consisted of a team known for football, one that used to be good way before we were born and one trying to become a powerhouse and that it was won by a team that stands 5th in its domestic league standings. Say what you want though because people here were much more than impressed.
And that (in my opinion as always), strategies and logistics aside and even entirely on its own, gives Basketball Champions League a place in European hoops.