Istanbul clubs: Efes, the trend-setter

Apr 20, 2017 by Andy West, Print
Istanbul clubs: Efes, the trend-setter

It is entirely appropriate that Anadolu Efes Istanbul has advanced to the playoffs in the very first season of the new-look EuroLeague, because the club has been the most consistently successful Turkish team throughout the modern era of European basketball.

The club was founded in 1976 and took the name Efes Pilsen from the Istanbul-based beer company that served as its sponsor. Success was almost immediate, with the club winning the Turkish Second Division in just its second season of existence and then claiming the national championship the very next season.

Efes maintained its position of supremacy in Turkish basketball by winning consecutive titles in 1983 and 1984 and continued to excel on a regular basis to become the most successful domestic club in the country’s history. Efes conquered its 13th Turkish championship in its most recent triumph in 2009.

That consistent success also allowed Efes to compete on a regular basis in continental competitions, and in 1996 the club became the first Turkish team to claim silverware on the European stage by defeating Stefanel Milano by 1 point over two legs to lift the Korac Cup. Four years later, Efes was also the first Turkish team to advance to a EuroLeague Final Four; it placed third after beating Barcelona in the third-place game in Thessaloniki.

More recently, the club has regularly been a strong challenger at the EuroLeague level, though it has come up short in its bids to book another passage to the Final Four. Efes reached the Top 16 every season but one since 2002 and advanced to the playoffs on five occasions.

In 2011 the club changed its name to become Anadolu Efes Istanbul, the parent company of Efes Pilsen, and the following year it moved back to Abdi Ipekci Arena – Efes’s home arena since 1986 – after a two-year sojourn at this season’s Final Four venue, the Sinan Erdem Dome.

Throughout its history, the club has stayed close to its Istanbul roots by focusing heavily on its youth development and producing countless future EuroLeague and Turkish national team stars, including Mirsad Turkcan, who eventually retired as the EuroLeague’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,287 career boards.

In the current era, that commitment to young talent is embodied by the example of Cedi Osman, who moved from his native Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to join Efes at the age of 12, with the club financing the relocation of Osman’s entire family. And now, Osman is among Efes’s leading lights as it seeks to write another page in the history books by becoming the first Turkish team to lift the EuroLeague title!