Born in Podgorica, Montenegro, 31-year-old Nikola Mirotic has emerged as one of the most dominant players in recent EuroLeague history, one who is very much at the heart of FC Barcelona's return to the Final Four for another shot at glory a year after they finished as runners-up.
Star turn: Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona
Mirotic was a late bloomer. He did not start playing basketball until his grandfather introduced him to the sport at age 13 and he made his way to the Joker School in the Montenegrin capital. A year later, in 2005, Mirotic signed his first contract with Real Madrid, joining its youth program. By 2008, Mirotic was already a member of Real's senior roster. By the time he left in 2014, Mirotic had helped Los Blancos win a Spanish League and two Spanish Cup titles.
Mirotic also helped Real qualify for three Final Fours – in 2011, 2013 and 2014 – following what had been a 15-year drought at the event for the most-crowned club in EuroLeague history. Los Blancos went all the way to the championship games in 2013 and 2014, but lost them to Olympiacos Piraeus and Maccabi Tel Aviv, respectively. Mirotic was the first player to win the EuroLeague Rising Star award in consecutive seasons, 2010-11 and 2011-12. He was also chosen to the 2012-13 and 2013-14 All-EuroLeague Second Team. Mirotic went on to play in the NBA before joining Barca at age 28, right in the prime of his career.
Mirotic has been Barca's undeniable leader since setting foot at Palau Blaugrana, and his presence has led to titles, too. He had a starring role as Barca won the Spanish League and Cup titles in 2021 and repeated as cup winners earlier this season. Last spring, he led Barca to its first Final Four appearance since 2014. They reached the championship game before Anadolu Efes Istanbul stepped in the way and seized the title. For his outsized role in that success, Mirotic was voted to the All-EuroLeague First Team last season.
In the last three seasons, Mirotic has been just unstoppable in a Barca uniform. He ranks first among all EuroLeague players over that span in average performance index rating (20.2); second in defensive rebounds (4.5); and third in points (17.0). He has shot the ball with extreme efficiency, too: 61.8% from inside the arc, 39.9% from long distance and 86.7% at the foul line. After coming so close to the EuroLeague trophy without getting his hands on it yet, no other player should be more motivated than Mirotic to give Barca its third continental crown.