By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Vitoria-Gasteiz is not what you could consider the standard destination for an event of the size of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. Still, you can’t deny the charm of the city, its top-notch restaurants, which were even mentioned by Zeljko Obradovic, and the affection for the sport of basketball.
The love for Baskonia, the local basketball club, can be translated also to love for the sport and the demand of the city for a Final Four is a really old story.
As EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu said: “I am sure very few people know that 19 years ago, Vitoria-Gasteiz was awarded to organize this event, but many things happened during that summer of 2000 and a long wait started since then”.
Just for the record, back in the 2000-01 season, the EuroLeague didn’t have a Final Four. The Finals were played in a best-of-five format and ended with Kinder Bologna winning the title in Game 5 against Baskonia, then known as Tau Ceramica. During the summer of 2000, the European basketball was divided and Baskonia joined the EuroLeague. As a result, the city lost the Suproleague Final Four, which was organized by FIBA and ultimately was held in Paris.
Since then, Vitoria became a EuroLeague staple, a city that lives and breaths for the sport and a well-known destination for everything basketball.
After all, Baskonia has steadily produced top-level players who are destined to be sold to the higher bidder either in the old continent or in the NBA. So a healthy number of scouts, agents, decision makers, and basketball talent are always around.
And you never know who you may end up meeting in one of the cities food or drink establishments after the end of each game.
The main plate of the Final Four is always the games, but it doesn’t hurt to know that at the end of the day you may enter the door of “El Portalon” for a generous portion of “chuletón”, rushing to your destination in order to make it before the kitchen closes, and then share a drink and a story or two with local fans, foreign scouts or even a famous coach, if you are really lucky.
Very few cities around Europe can brag about the fact that basketball is part of their essential fabric and dominates other aspects of everyday life. Vitoria-Gasteiz is one of them and having the Final Four in town will end up being memorable, no matter what…