It was the kind of season that makes for clichéd, predictable Hollywood Sports movies: a cash-strapped team, with the inability to match the star-power of its opponents, somehow manages to find ways to win despite their problems, reaches all the way into the Semi-Finals of the tournament to beat the big bad overwhelming favourites, finds itself down by double digits in the Final, makes one last determined, miraculous comeback in the second half, gets lucky with their stronger opponents miss two free throws in the dying seconds, and then hits the last shot to win the game and the championship.
Confetti falls. The hero gets a kiss from his girlfriend. The old-fashioned father finally accepts his son’s love for basketball. And the Coach silently watches knowingly, putting up a stern, brave face to hide his tears of joy inside. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little in this paragraph ).
It was that type of a dream season for the Olympiacos Basketball team in the Euroleague tournament, the biggest club basketball tournament in the world outside of the NBA. Stripped off their budget after a major financial crisis in Greece, Olympiacos surprised everyone – including their own fans, perhaps – to go on and win Europe’s biggest basketball trophy in dramatic fashion at the Sinah Erdem Dome in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday, May 13th. Georgios Printezis netted a one-handed shot from the side of the rim in the final second to give his side a 62-61 win in the final over the overwhelming favourites from Russia, CSKA Moscow.
This was Olympiakos’ second Euroleague title, with the first one coming back in 1997. The Euroleague trophy was lifted by a Greek team for the second year in a row after Panathinaikos won it last year.
Trailing by as many as 19 points mid-way into the third quarter, Olympiacos made a strong comeback to get within one in the dying seconds of the game. CSKA’s forward Ramunas Siskauskas missed two free throws with 10 seconds left, setting the stage for the final game-winner by Printezis.
Kostas Papanikolaou led the way for Olympiacos with 18 points in the final game, but it was his teammate Vassilis Spanoulis who was named MVP of the Euroleague’s Final Four. The overall MVP award for the tournament went to former NBA star and CSKA Moscow’s forward Andrei Kirilenko. CSKA also boasted of another former NBA player, Nenad Krstic.
Runners-up in the tournament in 2010, qualifying for the Final Four of the Euroleague alone for the underdog Olympiacos team was a huge surprise this year, and they weren’t expected to survive their matchup with eternal European basketball powerhouses Barcelona in the semi-final. But led by Spanoulis’ 21 points, Olympiacos upset Barcelona 68-64 to creep into the Final. CSKA Moscow had won a 66-64 thriller over Panathinaikos.
All Euroleague First Team
Dimitris Diamantidis (Panathinaikos)
Vassilis Spanoulis (Olympiacos)
Andrei Kirilenko (CSKA Moscow)
Erazem Lorbek (Barcelona)
Nenad Krstic (CSKA Moscow)
Final Four MVP: Vassilis Spanoulis (Olympiacos)
Euroleague MVP: Andrei Kirilenko (CSKA Moscow)