The 2001-02 season reunited all the greats to the EuroLeague after giants such as Maccabi Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos Athens, CSKA Moscow and Efes Pilsen Istanbul played the previous season in the FIBA SuproLeague. The competition grew to 32 teams, which were divided into four groups of eight for the regular season followed by the introduction of a new phase, the Top 16. Kinder Virtus Bologna and Panathinaikos shared the best record in the regular season at 12-2 and were joined by Benetton Treviso and Tau Ceramica Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz as the regular season group winners. The Top 16 consisted of four groups of four to be played in a round-robin format, after which Benetton, Kinder, Panathinaikos and Maccabi reached the Final Four in Bologna.
Panathinaikos rode the hot hand of Dejan Bodiroga to eliminate Maccabi 83-75 in the first semifinal. Bodiroga tallied 27 points and 9 rebounds for the Greens. They were joined by Kinder in the final after the host squad used a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter and break a 63-63 tie. Marko Jaric paced the winners with 18 points. Panathinaikos became the first -and to date only – team to win a EuroLeague championship game on its opponents' home floor when it erased a 14-point second-quarter deficit to win 83-89. Ibrahim Kutluay scored 22 points for Panathinaikos and Manu Ginobili netted 27 in defeat.
"Let me tell you that it wasn't easy to beat Kinder at home, and they have a great coach in Messina who has done impressive things this season and will continue to do so in the future," a prophetic Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic said after the championship game. "After winning my first Final Four with Partizan in 1992, my mentor, Aco Nikolic, told me, 'This will be the first you will win of many.' And all I thought was 'this guy is crazy!' I thought that that could not be repeated, but he was right. Nikolic is always right."
Mirsad Turkcan of CSKA was the regular-season MVP with monster numbers. He had a league-best performance index rating of 28.1 in the regular season. He posted double-doubles in 13 of his 17 appearances that season and was MVP of the round four times. He averaged 17.6 points and 12.8 rebounds for the season, which remains a EuroLeague record for rebounds per game for a season. Panathinaikos forward Dejan Bodiroga was the Top 16 MVP after producing 19.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for an average PIR of 24.7 in that phase. Bodiroga, who was also the Final Four MVP, finished the season with similar numbers of 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and a PIR of 23.1.
Dejan Bodiroga led the All-EuroLeague First Team alongside Benetton playmaker Tyus Edney, Kinder teammates Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric and Baskonia big man Dejan Tomasevic. Arriel McDonald of Maccabi, Alphonso Ford of Olympiacos, Mirsad Turkcan of CSKA, Marcelo Nicola of Benetton and Joseph Blair of Scavolini Pesaro made up the Second Team. Ford led the league in scoring with 24.8 points per game, which remains the highest single-season average in competition history with a minimum of 20 games played.
Other stars of the season
Gregor Fucka of Fortutido Bologna, Grigorij Khizhnyak of Zalgiris and Ruslav Avleev of Ural Great joined Turkcan with multiple MVP of the round awards. Khizhnyak blocked 3.2 blocks per game to set a record that stands today. Fucka was the only player to have multiple PIRs in the 40s; he had 45 against Zadar in Round 4 and 41 against CSKA in Round 7.
Jaka Lakovic started his EuroLeague career with a bang; in just his second game for KRKA Novo Mesto, he went off for 38 points, 7 assists and 4 steals in compiling a PIR of 55 in an 87-93 road win at Real Madrid. That PIR is tied for the second-highest single-game PIR in the first two decades of the EuroLeague. Ulker Istanbul forward Quadre-Michael Lollis set a record that has not yet been topped when he corralled 11 offensive rebounds in Round 4 to lead his team past Olimpija. Vlado Stipanovic became the third person to score 40 points in the competition when he reached that number in a Round 10 road win at Ural Great. Also in Round 10, Mirsad Turkcan became the first player to record a 20-20 game when he had 27 points and 23 rebounds in a victory over Buducnost. Later that season, Real set a still-standing EuroLeague record for free-throw shooting by making 34 without a miss in a 104-113 road win at Ural Great. Alberto Angulo and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca led the way with 8 foul shots each. Kinder's Sani Becirovic set the Final Four single-game free-throw mark with 14 in the semifinal.
Rising stars debut
Future five-time All-EuroLeague selection Nikola Vujcic debuted with Maccabi for which he appeared in two games before going on loan to ASVEL Villeurbanne and dominating with 18.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Theo Papaloukas, who would go on to win two championships with CSKA Moscow and become the 2006 EuroLeague Final Four MVP and the 2007 EuroLeague MVP, debuted with Olympiacos and averaged 8.4 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Papaloukas's longtime backcourt mate at CSKA, J.R. Holden, debuted in the EuroLeague with AEK Athens and was worth 17.2 points in 20 games. It would be his only EuroLeague season not with CSKA.