Βy Dimitris Minarentzis/ email@example.com
How else to explain the fact that two EuroLeague finals were decided by a single point with a buzzer beater, two of the greatest baskets of all-time in the competition…
If we also add to the epics of Partizan and Olympiacos the upset of the century by Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final against Milan, when they were behind 0-3 and they turned the game around within 11’, in the end prevailing in the penalty shoot-out, well then, there can’t be a different explanation: this city – the City with a capital C as Greeks call it – exudes something inspiring, something out of a drama, just as its troubled but glorious history.
“King” Aleksandar Djordjevic
Obradovic’s Partizan (with Ivkovic in an unseen advisory role) were the ultimate outsider in the Final Four in Abdi Ipekci in 1992. Badalona were powerful, much more than in 1994 when they shocked Olympiacos in Tel Aviv. The elite of Spanish basketball belonged to their roster, with the Jofresa brothers, Villacampa, Morales, as well as the Americans Pressley and Corny Thompson. Yes, the same bulky guy who “executed” Olympiacos two years later.
The triumph over Estudiantes in the semifinal (91-69) testified to their strength, but at the same time Partizan fired their warning shot as Djordjevic’s gang – the 22-year-old Danilovic and the 20-year-old Rebraca (in a smaller role) – knocked out the great Olimpia Milan of Antonello Riva and the late Darryl Dawkins, who had 21 points and 19 rebounds in the semifinal! But they weren’t enough.
In the final, Partizan were ahead 40-34 at halftime, with Djordjevic and Danilovic starring. They finished the game with 23 and 25 points respectively, but Sasa had 20 until the last two seconds of the game.
Tomas Jofresa, with a short-range shot reminiscent of Galis, took the score at 70-68 with less than ten seconds on the clock. Of course, back then the shot clock didn’t stop so Partizan had to be quick. Djordjevic ran the length of the court under the pressure of the clutch Spanish guard (18 points, 20 for Pressley), planted his feet firmly outside the 6.25m. line and with a three-pointer that we will remember forever, he gave Partizan the European championship!!
Watch it here so you older ones can remember – and you younger ones can learn – how that amazing final ended…
Twenty years later, the Final Four was again hosted in Istanbul, not in the Abdi Ipekci but the ultramodern Sinan Erdem. Just like now. Olympiacos went to Turkey almost like Partizan had in 1992. Which is, in the role of Cinderella, since the super rich CSKA were looking almighty, Barcelona the same, and Panathinaikos were going to defend the title they’d won the previous season, the sixth in their history.
And Olympiacos? A team that had come close to falling apart the previous summer, with Spanoulis nevertheless taking them to the end of the road, also thanks to the help of Printezis, the contribution of Law and Dorsey who had been “poached” in the winter from Partizan (coincidence…) and Laboral’s “unclaimed” section, along with Dusan Ivkovic’s amazing youngsters (Sloukas, Mantzaris, Papanikolaou, Katsivelis, Keselj).
In one semifinal CSKA defeated Panathinaikos in the end, while Olympiacos lost their lead only once against Barcelona, who, it is true, in the four years between 2009 and 2012 looked invincible on the court. Olympiacos had felt it in 2010 in Paris. But they got their revenge in that semifinal.
Even so, everyone thought that the miracles were now over for Olympiacos and until the 28th minute CSKA made sure to confirm this with a 19-point lead (53-34). Who is going to forget Shved’s American celebration during the timeout that Duda called at that moment. The timeout that made history.
Ivkovic threw the youngsters in the game and told them to just… play. No shouting, no nothing. And, as if by a miracle, within a few minutes the difference had gone down to 5 points with Keselj’s only three-pointer in the game!
But there was still a long way to go. Papanikolaou didn’t miss from anywhere, Printezis had gotten into a rhythm, but CSKA still had the lead. And then we got to the final seconds. First Milos misses a free throw, “Pap” responds and everyone turned their attention (and their… voodoo) to Siskauskas. Second one missed. Who could believe it? The ball in Spanoulis’s hands, an assist to Printezis, and the “thrower” of a lifetime, of a career, of a history that was made, goes in.
After 20 years in Istanbul, the same story is repeated. Watch Printezis’s legendary basket with commentary in four different languages, as we know you love it most…