Euroleague Basketball joins the family of European basketball in mourning Jiri Zidek Sr., long considered the greatest basketball player in the history of the Czech Republic, who passed away early Sunday after a lengthy illness.
Euroleague Basketball mourns Jiri Zidek Sr.
He is survived by his sons Jan, Jiri and Tomas, two of whom were at the Final Four in Belgrade when given the news, and many grandchildren. Jiri Zidek, Jr., a former EuroLeague champion and a commentator for EuroLeague TV, said he would stay to work the games on Sunday because his father "would want me to finish the job."
"His life was basketball to last day," Jiri Jr., said. "He loved basketball more than any man I know."
Mr. Zidek spent 17 seasons on the court as a player and another seven on the sidelines coaching. He was a Final Four pioneer, leading Slavia Prague to both editions of the event when the format was experimented with in the 1960s. In 1966, he was the top scorer in the championship game with 22 points in a loss to Olimpia Milan in Bologna, Italy. A year later, in 1967, he and Slavia finished third in Madrid, Spain. Mr. Zidek then led Slavia to back-to-back appearances in the Saporta Cup finals. In 1968, they lost 89-82 to AEK despite his 31 points before what was long considered to have been the biggest crowd in basketball history, an estimated 80,000 fans at the historic, outdoor Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens. Finally, in 1969, he and Slavia got to lift the Saporta Cup trophy title, beating Dinamo Tbilisi 80-74 in Vienna, Austria, with Mr. Zidek scoring 15 points.
A six-time Czechoslovakian League champion, Mr. Zidek was also a star of that country's national team. He was a member of the all-tournament team after leading Czechoslovakia to a silver medal at EuroBasket 1967 and followed that with a bronze medal at EuroBasket 1969. Zidek also competed at the 1972 Olympic Games.