A title game abuzz with storylines

May 30, 2021 by Euroleague.net Print

A title game abuzz with storylines

As one of the most important basketball games in the world every season, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game always has a lot of storylines buzzing around it, and the 2021 edition on Sunday night is no exception.

Whether FC Barcelona or Anadolu Efes Istanbul lifts the trophy at LANXESS Arena, the champion will have a list of interesting facts and potential milestones.

In the category of remarkable facts, there is the unprecedented dominance of two players during 11 games between these two teams over the last three seasons, including a five-game playoff to reach the 2019 Final Four.

Efes has won seven of those 11 games, and in each of those seven victories, either Shane Larkin or Vasilije Micic played well enough to win the MVP honor for having had the best performance index rating of all EuroLeague players in either the same week or the same round.


Larkin has been particularly brilliant against Barcelona, earning three such weekly MVP honors in the 2018-19 season. One of them, in Round 25 of the regular season, assured Efes home-court advantage over Barca in their playoff series. He then was MVP in the last two playoff games that Efes won to advance.

Micic claimed his first MVP honor vs. Barca in Game 1 of that 2019 playoff series and another in the last game they played this season, in Round 24, when Efes won in Barcelona.

Turning to the head coaches, Ergin Ataman of Efes can become the first Turkish-born coach to win the EuroLeague. Bogdan Tanjevic lifted the trophy with Bosna Sarajevo in 1979 and gained Turkish citizenship later on his career, but was born in Montenegro. One of Tanjevic's players, when Bosna won in 1979, was Stevislav Pesic, who went on to lift the EuroLeague title as Barcelona's head coach in 2003.

To date, Pesic is one of just three people to win the EuroLeague as both a player and coach. The others are Lolo Sainz (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968 Real Madrid; 1978, 1980 Real Madrid) and Armenak Alachachan (1961, 1963 CSKA Moscow; 1969 CSKA Moscow). On Sunday, Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who won four EuroLeague titles as a player – including his first with Pesic in 2003 – can become the next man on that list.

WIN playerandcoach

Barcelona swingman and semifinals hero Cory Higgins can become just the fourth player to win consecutive EuroLeague titles with different teams, following Jasikevicius (Barcelona 2003, Maccabi 2004), Dejan Bodiroga (Panathinaikos 2002, Barcelona 2003) and Ramunas Siskauskas (Panathinaikos 2007, CSKA 2008).

WIN playersb2b

His teammate Nick Calathes is looking to become a repeat EuroLeague champion with one of the longest gaps between titles. Calathes has waited a full decade to get another shot at the EuroLeague title he won with Panathinaikos in 2011. Just three players in history have waited that long – or longer –to win again: Dino Meneghin (Varese 1976, Milan 1987), Nikita Kurbanov (CSKA 2006, 2016) and David Blu (Maccabi 2004, 2014).

WIN longestgaps

If Efes were to win tonight, however, not only the club and Coach Ataman, but every single player would become a first-time champion. The last time that happened was in 1999 when Zalgiris Kaunas, coached Jonas Kazlauskas and all of the players lifted the trophy together for the first time.

Coach Ataman has a chance to win his fourth different European competition trophy, which only two other coaches have managed to do before. Ataman has already won the Saporta Cup with Montepaschi Siena in 2002, the FIBA EuroChallenge with Besiktas Istanbul in 2012, and the 7DAYS EuroCup with Galatasaray Istanbul in 2015. Only Dusan Ivkovic (EuroLeague, EuroCup, Saporta, Korac) and Aito Garcia Reneses (EuroCup, Saporta, Korac, EuroChallenge) have four different European competition trophies now.

Barcelona big man Pau Gasol is back in the Final Four for the first time in 21 years. At age 40, he is the oldest player to participate in a Final Four, breaking the record set by Derrick Sharp, which is old team, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, joked about on Twitter, asking Sharp to come out of retirement. Gasol can also become just the second player in history to win the EuroLeague, NBA, EuroBasket and World Cup titles. Only Toni Kukoc managed to win them all, with Chicago, Jugoplastika Split and the former Yugoslavia national team, respectively.

Gasol can also become the first Spanish player to win the NBA and EuroLeague titles. If Efes wins, however, Rodrigue Beaubois would get that honor, being the first Frenchmen to lift the NBA and EuroLeague trophies.

A lot can happen on Sunday and history will be rewritten. Don't miss the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game!