Good news, basketball fans in India! The most important basketball league in the world outside of the NBA – Euroleague Basketball – will now be shown live in India, starting Thursday, March 14th! The league recently announced their partnership with sports marketing and entertainment agency Total Sports Asia to show live games on the Ten Sports channel (of the Taj Entertainment Network). Ten Sports will broadcast one game a week (the official Game of the Week of the Euroleague) in India, and the broadcast will continue for two more seasons after this one.
In addition to India, the broadcast will also be shown in South Asian neighbouring nations Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives. Altogether, this will take up the total number of nations with official Euroleague Basketball broadcasts to 199!
If you’re uninitiated to the Euroleague, you need to definitely start paying some attention. The Euroleague is basketball’s version of Football’s UEFA Champions League. Now officially called the ‘Turkish Airlines Euroleague’ thanks to their sponsors, the league has existed since 1958 and involves basketball clubs from up to 20 different countries in Europe, who are members of ULEB. The most successful Euroleague teams in history have been Real Madrid (Spain), CSKA Moscow (Russia), and Panathinaikos Athens (Greece).
The reigning champions are Greek side Olympiacos, who defeated CSKA Moscow in a thrilling Final last year. Current Minnesota Timberwolf, Andrei Kirilenko, was the Euroleague’s MVP last season for Moscow, and Olympiacos’ Vasilis Spanoulis was the Final Four MVP.
This season’s Euroleague began on October 11th. 24 qualifying teams were divided into four groups of six (Groups A-D). The top four teams from each group then move on to two more groups (E-F) for the top 16-stage of the competition. We are currently in the Top 16 stage, and the top four teams from each of those groups will move into the Quarter-Final play-offs. Quarter-Finals are held in a best-of-five series.
And that’s how we get to the Final Four, which is the most exciting and popular aspect of the league. The Final Four this year will be held at the O2 Arena in London, England, and will be a straight do-or-die 1-game knock-out.
So far this season, two Spanish sides more popular for their footballing prowess, look like favourites to dominate the basketball world too. Real Madrid and Barcelona are leading Groups E and F respectively, with both teams holding on to a 9-1 record in the Top-16 stage. Also looking strong is Turkish side Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Holders Panathinaikos currently find themselves in the last qualifying spot in Group E.
So who should you watch out for? Although it doesn’t match the NBA when it comes to superstar attraction, the Euroleague nevertheless boasts some fantastic individual talents. Former NBA player Bobby Brown has been the leading scorer in the league so far for Italian side Montepaschi Siena. Another American Shawn James, a threat in the post, has been the star man for Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv. CSKA Moscow boast of two of important stars in the Russian Victor Khryapa and Serbian Nenad Krstic. Barcelona’s Ante Tomic of Croatia has been the most recent MVP of the month for the league, while Real Madrid field well known Spanish stars like Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic.
But if any of you are enthusiasts of the international game, you’ll know that it’s not really the individuals who make a big difference, but the play of the entire team as a whole. A lot of Europe’s best teams use balanced attack and defense and boast a number of different threats. If you love the fast-paced unselfish style of play, you’ll definitely enjoy the Euroleague, which boasts the cream of the crop of European clubs.
Until a year ago, Ten Sports/Ten Action and Sony SIX/PIX (of MSM India) co-owned the rights to show live NBA games in India. Which was great, because fans like me got to watch a game nearly every day of the week on either one of those two channels. But this season, Sony SIX earned exclusive rights for NBA broadcasts in India, and Ten Sports was left behind. SIX upped the ante even further when they signed a deal to show Liga Endesa – Spain’s top tier basketball league – in 2012.
Finally, it seems that Ten Sports will be getting some basketball back. It isn’t the NBA and – with just one game a week – it isn’t that often, but it’s a start.
The first game on Thursday night was between Maccabi Tel Aviv and BC Khimki Moscow Region on Thursday, two sides battling for the 4th and final qualifying spot in Group F. Maccabi edged Khimki 80-79 in that contest.
The quarter-finals will be held from April 9-25, 2013, and the Final Four in London will be from May 10-12, with the Final slated for May 12, 2013. Hopefully (they haven’t clarified at this point), hopefully all of the Final Four games are shown live in India (and rest of South Asia).
Between Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Bob McAdoo, Mike D’Antoni, Anthony Parker, Arvydas Sabonis, Manu Ginobili, Dominique Wilkins, Juan Carlos Navarro and Luis Scola, a whole host of big name basketball players have made a name for themselves in the Euroleague. Make sure you catch the league this season so you don’t miss the next generation of stars and dominating teams from Europe.