Decade to Decade: The Sixties

Mar 01, 2002 by Print
Decade to decade
The Sixties: Real Madrid breaks through!!

Lolo Sainz and Emiliano RodriguezThe Sixties were the years of Real Madrid's first titles, but the most memorable moment of the decade came when Madrid head coach Pedro Ferrandiz ordered his team to score in its own basket to avoid an overtime that could have led the Whites to a much larger loss. After five years of domination of the Soviet teams, Real Madrid's time came. Prior to winning its first European title in 1963-64, Real lost yet another final, the previous year, against CSKA Moscow. And what a loss it was. Emiliano Rodriguez, Real's best scorer at that time, tells us about it:

"The first game was in Madrid and we won by 17 points. Everybody thought that this gap would be enough to win the title, but in the second game, played in Moscow on July 31, we lost by 17 points as well. The regulations at that time established that a third game had to be played the following day. We also lost the third game, but what worried me was that my wedding was to take place on August 5, and travelling to and from Moscow those days was quite an adventure. Luckily, I made it home on time!"

Rodriguez tells us another anecdote: "We were the first Spanish team to ever play in Russian territory, and our families were worried about us. With us travelled one of the most well known radio broadcasters of all time in Spain, Matias Prats, who put an end to the broadcast with his usual line 'Viva Franco, arriba España', praising the fascist regime in Spain at that time. When Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu heard that he almost fell off the chair because he thought that we wouldn't be allowed to leave Russia. But nothing happened: We got home safe and sound, just without the Cup."

The next season arrived and Real reached another final against Spartak of Brno. The 11-point defeat in the first game (110-99) was overcome by Madrid in the second by 20 points (84-64) and Real won its first European title.

"It was a day of big joy for us, as we finally had reached our aim after so many attempts. We repeated the next season, 1964-65, by finally beating CSKA, our black beast at that time. I have to recognize that the Russians, as I always call them even though they weren't all from Russia, had great players: Volkov, Petrov, Alachachan, Sergei Belov some time later. The giant Kruminsh was like an extraterrestrial being for us, as it was the first time that we saw someone that big and strong. In other countries there were great players as well: Antoine in France, Massini and a young Dino Meneghin in Italy, Lopatka and Winosky in Poland, Korac and Daneu in Yugoslavia. Korac stole the best scorer title from me in the European Championship of 1961, he was a born scorer."

Real played more finals and won more titles, but there's a single basket that has remained alive in the minds of basketball fans for more than 30 years. Of course, that's the famous shot in Real's own basket by Lorenzo Alocen. Emiliano, who is the current honorary president of Real Madrid, doesn't forget any of the details:

"We were playing in Varese. Ignis was a very strong team but we managed to hold them back until the last minute. It was then when our center Luyk, was called for his fifth foul and we were left without a center. The score was tied and our coach, Pedro Ferrandiz, told Alocen to score in our own basket, so that we avoided overtime, as in 5 more minutes in which we surely would have taken a big loss. Alocen put it in, and the referees had no other option than admitting the basket, but after that we would have to leave the arena protected by the police, because the crowd was very angry. At first, the crowd erupted with joy because the basket and the win were for their team, but shortly after they realized what really had happened. Of course, FIBA changed that rule immediately, but that game entered into European basketball history."

Emiliano Rodriguez recognizes that modern-day basketball is more spectacular, more physical, the players are also more prepared in every aspect, but he misses the old times as well:

"We played improvisational basketball, based on talent exclusively. There weren't so many tactics or deep benches. I played 40 minutes per game and shot a lot. Nowadays, the players wouldn't be able to endure that. But it was a belle epoque for European basketball and I'm proud to have been part of that Real Madrid that won 4 titles in 7 finals between the 60's and the 70's.

Besides Real Madrid and CSKA, the sixties saw the birth of a new giant, Ignis Varese. Even thouugh Simenthal of Milano was the first Italian team to win the title, in 1966 in Bologna by beating Slavia of Prague 77-72, Italy would have to wait until Ignis Varese's emergence for a team that could stop CSKA and Real. Before that, however, on April 24, 1969 in Barcelona, the two giants of the era, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, offered showtime before the word was invented, as the Russians won the final 103-99 in double-overtime. The hero of the game was Russian center Andreev with 37 points and 11 boards in 50 minutes! Their combined 202 points is still the highest scoring ever in a top European competition's final games.

Some other eye-popping records marked the same era, chief among them the 99 points scored one player, Radivoj Korac, still the most ever in a European Cup game. The legendary Yugoslav scorer, who passed away on June 2, 1969 in a car accident near Sarajevo at age 31, scored those 99 points in 1965 for his lifelong team, OKK Belgrade, against Alvik of Sweden in a 155-57 home victory. Nobody realized that Korac was only one point short of the mythical 100-point mark set by Wilt Chamberlain, or perhaps his head coach would not have sat him on the bench to rest near the end of the game. OKK's 98-point margin that night only lasted as a record until 1973-74, when Akademik of Sofia beat Bekrane of Morocco by 119 points, 172-53! Those 172 points by Akademik remain the most scored by one team in a Euroleague game. The record for combined score, 264 points total, came in 1970, when Malinas of Belgium beat Boroughmir of Scotland 144-120, with no overtime!