Welcome to the Final Four blog! The EuroLeague staff will be on the ground covering all of the big events in Belgrade and sharing what’s going on behind the scenes all week long.
Final Four live blog: FanZone finishes strong with community broadcast of the final!
FanZone finishes strong with community broadcast of the final!
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone has been filled with fans the past three days, and for all those in Belgrade without a ticket for the Saturday's main event at Stark Arena, it is also a place to be when Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes Istanbul face off for the trophy, because everyone can watch the game together on a jumbo screen at the main court in Savski Square.
Ever since it opened its doors on Thursday morning, the FanZone at Belgrade's Savski Square has been full of fans, many wearing the jerseys of their favorite teams.
The red of Olympiacos Piraeus was the dominant color, but the fans of Efes, Madrid and FC Barcelona also showed up in big numbers.
Of course, tens of thousands Serbian basketball lovers have also enjoyed the FanZone, winning prizes and participating in many activities at more than a dozen stands and pavilions set up by Euroleague Basketball sponsors and partners.
A centrally located Turkish Airlines pavilion is where you can measure your hang time, while 7DAYS has set up several baskets where you can challenge your friends to a shootout, or take a picture with a EuroLeague trophy. BKT challenges fans to prove their skills and EuroLeague knowledge with a series of tests, while adidas set up baskets to attempt the craziest basketball shots.
Vodavoda set up a heightened hoop, Tehnomanija allows fans to challenge each other to a mini-basket shootout, while Lasko has set up a laser room where the fans can win prizes.
All of that is open at Savski Square throughout the day Saturday as we get closer to the championship game, which will be shown live!
Pretty in pink: Mega beat NGS celebrate first ANGT crown
U18 Mega Mozzart Belgrade became the 11th club to win the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament title by knocking off U18 Next Generation Select Team 82-61 in the 2022 ANGT Championship Game.
It was third time lucky for the Serbian team, which had lost in the finale in 2017 and 2019 but gained control of the game in the Hala Sportova Ranko Zeravica with a 14-0 fourth quarter run. Nikola Djurisic scored 10 of his team-high 21 points in the big late run.
In the annuls of ANGT history, Mega joins other champions U18 Real Madrid, U18 CSKA Moscow (both three crowns), U18 Zalgiris Kaunas, U18 FMP Belgrade, U18 PFYM INSEP Paris, U18 Rytas Vilnius (all two), U18 FC Barcelona, U18 Crvena Zvedzda mts Belgrade, U18 KK Zagreb and U18 Joventut Badalona.
Biserka Petrovic, a very special guest
Many basketball fans have attended the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four, but Biserka Petrovic is a truly special one. His son, the late Drazen Petrovic, was one of the most dominant players in European basketball history, and many claim he is the biggest talent ever seen in the continent. A groundbreaking pioneer, Petrovic was a two-time EuroLeague champion with Cibona Zagreb, scored 62 points to lead Real Madrid to the Saporta Cup title in 1989, and was also very successful in the NBA and with both the Yugoslavian and Croatian national team before he tragically passed away in a car accident in 1993.
Biserka is enjoying the Final Four a lot, and it is not her first time around. "I attended the 2018 Final Four. I feel like at home, because where there's basketball, that's my home. I have been into basketball my whole life," she said, speaking wonders about the semifinals. "The atmosphere was wonderful. My grandson and I enjoyed the semifinals a lot and we took a lot of pictures. Barcelona and Real Madrid should have played the final!"
Asked about the team she roots for in the final, it is obviously Real, as her son played for Los Blancos in the 1988-89 season. "Absolutely, absolutely. Many Spanish fans visit the Drazen Petrovic museum in Zagreb, and remember him, which is beautiful. It is very emotional. They called him 'El Niño' (the kid)."
ANGT players put on a show in shootout, dunk contest
Friday night shined a bright light on some of the stars of the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals at the annual three-point shootout and slam dunk contest. Held at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone in Savski Square, a large turnout of local fans turned up to see tomorrows start put on a show.
Lazar Gagic of U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade took home the trophy from the three-point contest, while Eric Dailey impressed judges Joe Arlauckas, Dejan Tomasevic and Ivica Zubac to capture the slam dunk crown. Dailey’s show-stopping dunk was a one-handed windmill while he was recording it with a cell phone in his other!
Nikos Zisis: Spanoulis coaching is great for the game
After some two decades of competing with and against one another across the world, Nikos Zisis and Vassilis Spanoulis are best friends and godfather's too each other's children.
Zisis came to Belgrade to watch Spanoulis coach the U18 Next Generation Select Team at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals and believes his friend believes has the makings to become a great pro coach, if he so chooses.
"It's strange," the 2008 EuroLeague champion said while watching Spanoulis patrol the sidelines at the ANGT Finals. "Honestly, I believe he can become a great, great coach."
But that wasn't always the case.
"Maybe five years ago I wouldn't have said he he has a coach's mentality, but over the last one-two years, in the many talks I've have with him, I realized that he can do it. He has a coach's perspective. He loves the game. Basketball is like a virus for him. He needs to sit and think and talk about basketball all day long. I believe it will be great for the game if he decides to do it."
A 17-year EuroLeague veteran with seven teams, Zisis said the NGS players have a great advantage to be learning from Spanoulis.
"I think it's great for these kids to have Vassilis Spanoulis as a coach. They don't have many days to spend with him but there are many things that Vassilis can tell them. I know he talks about all of his great experiences from the past and all the great things he has accomplished," he said.
The finalists speak at the Championship Game Press Conference
Scant hours after acing their semifinals, protagonists of the teams that will battle for the Euroleague trophy in Belgrade on Saturday appeared at the Championship Game press conference on Friday to discuss the final with the hundreds of international media at the Final Four.
Real Madrid head coach Pablo Laso confirmed that Nigel Williams-Goss, who was injured in the first minute on Friday, will not play in the championship game, and likened it to Anadolu Efes Istanbul coach Ergin Ataman, seated beside him, losing veteran Kruno Simon to injury in the last practice before the team came to Belgrade.
"Ergin and I, we had we had problems, that's for sure. But we are here: period," Laso said. "I think that right now I am in a great position because I am here talking to you. I hoped for this from the beginning of the season."
For his part, Ataman revealed that his own son is a Real Madrid supporter – but only in football, of course.
"In Turkey, there are a lot of fans of Real Madrid. And one of them is my son," the Efes coach said. "He is a member of the junior Real Madrid fan club. Every year we receive a gift from them."
Vasilije Micic, last season's Final Four MVP and the author of the game-winning shot on Friday, said his team can draw inspiration from their famed Spanish opponents.
"What I like the best, when someone talks about Real Madrid and tradition and the winning mentality they have, I think that we have done that in the past four years," Micic said, "and I am very happy to be a part of this story with Efes."
The newcomer to the dais was Real forward Guerschon Yabusele, who also starred on Friday, but until a year and a half ago had not ever been a EuroLeague player.
"I just feel grateful," Yabusele said. "I am just enjoying every day of my life, trying to get better and learn every day from the peple around me: players, coaches, family, friends. I am just glad and happy to be part of his organization and part of this team."
Media, Platinum ticket holders take center court
Action resumed at Stark Arena on Friday morning with the traditional Adidas EuroLeague Media Game, followed by the Euroleague Basketball Platinum & Ambassadors Game.
There were a lot of well-known faces in the media day. Former EuroLeague champion Ibrahim Kutluay and former EuroLeague player Vladimir Kuzmanovic led the Black Team, coached by 2020-21 7DAYS EuroCup champion Zvezdan Mitrovic. There were four former professional players in the White Team: former EuroLeague and EuroCup champion Dejan Tomasevic, Miroslav Beric, Berni Rodriguez and Dora Panteli, all led by current Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade head coach Dejan Radonjic. The Whites won 40-39 in overtime with a game-sealing free throw by Rodriguez.
In the platinum & ambassadors Game, 1997 Final Four MVP David Rivers and three-time Alphonso Ford Top Scoring trophy winner Igor Rakocevic led each team. At the end of each game, played in 10-minuted halves, the teams took a group picture to remember the moment. Rakocevic and sports agent Misko Raznatovic each had 11 points to lead their team to a 39-36 win.
After dramatic semis, focus shifts to finale
Perspective is everything. And so was the case with the EuroLeague Semifinals, which set the stage for perhaps even bigger drama in the title-decider on Saturday night.
A newcomer to European basketball would surely gush at the events of Thursday night at Stark Arena. Two games that went to the wire in front of a packed house with loud, boisterous fans. Heroic efforts from superstars and role players alike. High-level basketball for 80 minutes. A grizzled veteran of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague might wink and say, “just another typical night at the EuroLeague Semifinals.”
The two semifinal games decided by a grand total of 6 points is the second-lowest margin of victory in the semis on record. The lowest was just last season when FC Barcelona edged AX Armani Exchange Milan by 2 and Anadolu Efes Istanbul bested CSKA Moscow by 3. Indeed, drama in the semifinals has become the norm.
And with that as the backdrop, the focus in Belgrade will quickly shift to Saturday night’s main event, Real Madrid vs. Efes for all the marbles. It will be the first game since the EuroLeague adopted a season-long round-robin format that neither of the finalists finished among the top three in the regular-season standings, but rest assured these are worthy contenders.
After all, they collectively took out those top three teams with No. 6 Efes KO’ing No. 3 Milan in the playoffs and No. 2 Olympiacos Piraeus last night while No. 4 Real disposed of the top regular-season team, Barcelona, in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Over the next 36 hours, countless words will be written about this championship game, analyzing it from all angles, dissecting their previous meetings, parsing words spoken by players and coaches. And then we will get to the biggest game of the season. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.
Semifinals are here!
The day has finally arrived! The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four gets underway with both semifinals, Olympiacos Piraeus vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul and FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. All EuroLeague fans have been waiting for this moment for a long time. All teams practiced and are ready to go. Olympiacos fans are all around the arena, wearing their red and white uniforms with a lot of pride, but there many Efes fans around, too. A great atmosphere is guaranteed when the ball goes up in the air - Stark Arena, one of the biggest basketball arenas in the worlds, is sold out.
As always, we will be covering the game on EuroLeague.net. Our Game Blog will be active before the start of the first semifinals until we know which two teams made it to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game on Saturday. Stay tuned for inside information, game analysis, exclusive footage and much more. Finally, it's Final Four time! Good luck to all four teams!
FanZone open for business
It's Semifinals Thursday at the Final Four, which also means the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone has opened its doors. Located at the spacious Savski Square, along the trendy Belgrade waterfront, the FanZone will once again be the Final Four's starting point for fans of all ages.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to flock over the next three days to the FanZone where everyone will be able to participate in a wide array of activities. Thanks to Euroleague Basketball partners Turkish Airlines, 7DAYS, BKT, Adidas and many more, the visitors will be able to do a variety of things at more than a dozen stands and pavilions set up in the FanZone. The activities range from measuring hang time and testing basketball knowledge to taking photos with the EuroLeague trophy or recording a video with some EuroLeague stars. Fans will also be able to buy merchandise and souvenirs, win prizes, see some of the Euroleague Basketball legends and – of course – shoot hoops.
The non-stop fun will be highlighted with One Team activities and a 3x3 tournament. And for those not lucky enough to have a ticket for the games at the Stark Arena, the FanZone will also be a great place to watch the Final Four games on a jumbo screen.
Make sure not to miss the FanZone!
Laprovittola’s moustache grows… on the wall
FC Barcelona arrived at Stark Arena as a team for the first time on Thursday evening to practice on the court. When they arrived at the locker-room, the players marveled at the supersized head shots of each player at his locker. Since those headshots were taken at the team’s preseason media day, there is always the possibility that a player or two might look a little different.
Such is the case with Barca guard Nicolas Laprovittola, who over the course of the season has groomed an impressive mustache. When Laprovittola was not in the room, an unnamed teammate took matters into his hands to “improve” Laprovittola’s photo by scribbling on a mustache. Does the light-hearted atmosphere speak well about the mental state of the Barca players? We’ll know more tomorrow!
French stars meet up
There was a buzz even before Real Madrid met with reporters. Los Blancos filled their locker room and the hallway with players signing balls and meeting dignitaries. In that time, Olympiacos center Moustapha Fall walked by and ran into his countryman and national teammate Vincent Poirier of Real Madrid. The two, who helped Les Bleus to the silver medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, embraced and chatted for a few minutes before Fall headed to the showers and Poirier to the mixed zone where he would meet with reporters before his team’s practice. It was a nice moment between friends who could yet meet in the paint on Sunday.
Schortsanitis interviews his former team
Olympiacos Piraeus was the next team to pass through the mixed zone and meet the media ahead of its practice at Stark Arena. While there were hundreds of journalists eager to meet the players, one of them stood out above the rest. He is former EuroLeague champion and All-EuroLeague First Team selection Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
"Big Sofo" is in Belgrade on assignment for a Greek television station and was curious to hear what some of his former teammates had to say. Schortsanitis, who played for the Reds from 2005 to 2010, had Georgios Printezis as well as the very young Kostas Papanikolaou and Kostas Sloukas as teammates there and on the Greek national team.
Efes meets the press before practice
Reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Anadolu Efes Istanbul was the first team to meet the press in the mixed zone before their Wednesday practice at Stark Arena. All the players and Coach Ergin Ataman were available for interviews about the big game against Olympiacos Piraeus tomorrow. Additionally, Elijah Bryant and last season's Final Four MVP Vasilije Micic were interviewed online for all media who could not attend the event.
"Even when people know we are known as an offensive team, in the last four playoffs game against Milan we showed a great part of our defensive ability, which gave us an extra boost," Micic said, perhaps foretelling a key to that semifinal.
Micic singled out Tyler Dorsey as one player who could be especially dangerous. "He is a very talented guy with a lot of points in his hands," he said. "Sasha Vezenkov is also a really unique player, very smart, a very clever guy to read the game."
MVP Mirotic calls out Calathes in speech
The highlight of the annual EuroLeague awards ceremony is always the naming of the MVP. This season, one of the winner’s teammates saw it coming and worked his way into the speech. After Nikola Mirotic received the MVP trophy from coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic, he grabbed the microphone to share his thoughts.
“A couple of weeks ago, my dear fiend Nick Calathes said in case you win, please remember me in your speech, so I said to him I will,” Mirotic revealed to the smiles of all on hand, including their coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius. Mirotic got a little more serious before adding: “I also want to thank Nick because he makes my life way easier on the court and he’s been an amazing teammate and friend.”
Mirotic’s full comments can be read here.
ANGT Finals underway!
If the semifinals and the championship game at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four are the main course, the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals are a tasty appetizer. The ANGT Finals are underway with U18 Mega Mozzart Belgrade and U18 PFYM INSEP Paris in action in the first game at Hala Sportova Ranko Zeravica. The tournament will feature 12 games through Friday and the winners of each group will square of on Saturday in the championship game. For more information on the games, check out www.euroleaguebasketball.net/ngt.
Barcelona’s arrival completes the foursome
We can now turn the page from Final Four anticipation to the count down for the tip-off. With the arrival of FC Barcelona, all the teams have checked in! Interestingly, the first Barca man into the hotel was Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who looked like a general leading his troops. Last in was Euroleague Legend Juan Carlos Navarro, who now serves as the director of Barcelona’s basketball section. In between, the roster filled in and a few of them had some interesting thoughts.
The experience was an unusual one for Sertac Sanli, who lifted the crown last season as an Anadolu Efes Istanbul player and saw many old friends as he entered the hotel. "I am really excited! I didn't know how I would react after I see them," he said. “It is going to be fun! I am trying to enjoy being in the Final Four, being in Belgrade. It is going to be different for me.”
One of the few Final Four newcomers on the Barcelona squad is Nigel Hayes-Davies, who had the following to say: “Some of the guys have been here before, some of the guys have won before. For a couple of us, it’s the first one. It's an exciting time. It is an honor and privilege to be here. In basketball, you work throughout your career to win championships, and to be here and have an opportunity to do that is something that you cherish because the championships and winning is not guaranteed in our sport... So all we can focus on is playing Barcelona basketball and if we do that for 40 minutes, we'll see what happens.”
Of course, there is still much more to happen until the first game on Thursday. Wednesday will bring about the awards ceremony, where this season’s MVP will be crowned; the opening press conference; team practices at Stark Arena and more. Check back on these pages for more updates as they happen.
Los Blancos strut into Belgrade
The award for the best-dressed arrivals goes to Real Madrid, hands down. Los Blancos checked into the Final Four wearing identical sleek black suits and ties with sharp white shirts. Although they could have passed for members of the Men in Black, the Madrid men are not concerned about protecting earth from extraterrestrial life, but rather protecting the paint from their opponents.
"Having experience in this event helps. When you are a first-timer, you have more anxiety in the before the games and experience helps you feel better on the court - hopefully better than in my first time," Real forward Gabriel Deck said. "As a team, we try to face each game in the same way, with the same intensity and character, but this is a Final Four game. It is a do-or-die game and the pressure is on but that goes the same for all four teams in Belgrade. All of them are here with the same goal: making it to the final and lifting the trophy."
"It's really exciting [to be here]. We are really enjoying the moment, but we are here to win, so we don't have to enjoy it too much, as the main reason we are here is to compete," Vincent Poirier added. "We feel good, we are doing great. I think we are playing the best basketball of this season. We are confident and we are ready."
The champs roll into town
Half of the participating teams at the 2022 Final Four are checked in with the arrival of defending champion Anadolu Efes Istanbul. The team’s arrival was slightly delayed when the skies opened up and poured down as Efes was landing in Belgrade. Nonetheless, the players and staff were all smiles as they encountered all those waiting for them in the lobby of the headquarters hotel.
Despite the presence of Efes’s star-studded roster, it was an 8-year-old boy who stole the show. Filip, a Partizan NIS Belgrade fan who has quickly adopted Efes as his favorite in the EuroLeague, was decked out in a No. 44 Krunoslav Simon jersey, which he patiently waited and asked Efes players to sign and to pose for photos with him. Soon, all of the assembled media saw Filip and turned their attention to his exploits.
“It is always nice to see kids wearing your jersey because sports is all about that, to see them interested in the sport and this is the best thing about the sport,” Simon said. “I am glad he is an Efes fan. This is a big club. We might not have as many fans as some clubs that have soccer teams, but I think it is good to have all kinds of fans of our club from all over.”
Bryant Dunston, after seeing Filip and some other Efes supporters there to welcome his team, spoke about the return of fans to the Final Four: "It was weird playing the last game of last season with no fans there - winning, celebrating, jumping up and down, and then looking around and there was nobody there... Hopefully, we are going to have that same result but with the fans there."
Olympiacos arrival signifies start of Final Four!
The arrival of Olympiacos Piraeus to the headquarters hotel in Belgrade symbolized the lighting of the torch for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. The other three teams will join them shortly, but the Reds had the honor of opening the proceedings. Select members of the media were allowed to pepper players with questions about their arrival.
One Olympiacos player looked a bit trimmer than before. Big man Livio Jean-Charles trimmed his beard: "Yes! It was just a choice of haircut, but definitely, I shaved the beard!" he said. "I am excited, for sure. There are a lot of talented players who have never made it to the Final Four in their careers, so I am pretty glad to be here."
Kostas Papanikolaou, who is among the Reds’ most-experienced players, added: “It does not matter how many [Final Fours] you had before, each one coming is new, it's beautiful and you want to take the best out of it… The most important thing that I said to the guys is to enjoy it. You never know if you are going to be able to have an experience like this in your life.”