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Tribute to the champs 2007-08: CSKA Moscow!
May 20, 2008
With CSKA Moscow's victory in the 2008 Final Four, Ettore Messina became the fifth head coach to win four Euroleague titles and the first to claim more than one with each of two different clubs. His two Euroleague trophies in three seasons at CSKA have helped revive Russia's standing as a world-class basketball capital. And by any measure - historic or modern, continental or global - Messina has joined a class reserved for the true elite of the coaching profession.
One of world basketball's quietest superstars made plenty noise at the 2008 Final Four. Not only did Ramunas Siskauskas help push CSKA Moscow onto the Euroleague victory stand again, but he also was voted the MVP for the 2007-08 season, his first with the Russian powerhouse. Siskauskas was a centerpiece of CSKA's victory effort in Madrid, making more free throws than any other Final Four player and scoring the most points per-minute for the champs. By lifting the Euroleague trophy with CSKA a year after he had done the same with Panathinaikos, Siskauskas made history on an individual level, too. He is the only player to ever join new Euroleague teams in consecutive seasons and take both to continental titles, an accomplishment that speaks for itself - and loudly.
The steady rise of Trajan Langdon as one of the world's great shooters had a crowning moment as he guided CSKA Moscow to their second Euroleague title together in three seasons while being named MVP of the 2008 Final Four. Langdon was near-perfect in the highest-pressure games on the basketball calendar, leading the eventual champs in scoring, committing no turnovers and taking the second-most rebounds and steals for CSKA during the weekend. On a team full of stars, it was clearly Langdon’s turn to shine. His Final Four MVP trophy added to a collection of accolades that continued growing as Langdon garnered All-Euroleague honors for a third season in a row. His favorite prize, however, was the ultimate keeper for such a dedicated team player - the Euroleague trophy!
After taking his unique place among the 50 top legends of European club basketball's first half-century, Theodoros Papaloukas used the rest of Final Four weekend to show why a career sixth man would deserve such an honor. Papaloukas proved his reputation as a game-changer while helping CSKA Moscow seize its second Euroleague trophy in three seasons. He was also named to a third consecutive All-Euroleague team, an honor to be added to his 2007 Euroleague Basketball MVP and 2006 Final Four MVP awards. No other substitute in pro basketball history has earned so much acclaim, and by doing so, Papaloukas has opened the door to new ways of achieving success for all players to follow, making him a sport-changer, too.
True champions shine in the most important games, and that is exactly what CSKA Moscow forward Matjaz Smodis did at the 2008 Final Four. A natural mismatch due to his rare combination of shooting and post skills, Smodis proved even more versatile when his long-range accuracy failed him. He led CSKA in rebounding at the Final Four and kept scoring from the foul line until using his only three-pointer all weekend to help sentence the title game and give CSKA a new crown. As such, Smodis joined a short list of three-time continental champions and proved himself to be one of the top power forwards in European basketball history while still in the prime of his career.
Tomas Van den Spiegel
It really was déjà vu all over again as center Tomas Van den Spiegel won his second Euroleague title in three years with CSKA Moscow – both times despite having started the season with other teams. This time around, Van den Spiegel returned to CSKA from Poland for the start of the Top 16, much like he had two seasons earlier, in 2006, from Italy. The long, agile center stepped right back into his patented role of providing defense, blocked shots, timely dunks and team chemistry. His experience became particularly important in the championship's title game, when CSKA's other big men encountered foul trouble.
Yet another example of CSKA Moscow's winning combination of star talent dedicated to team-first concepts is forward Marcus Goree. After five seasons as a standout contributor on three other Euroleague teams, Goree didn’t miss a beat while stepping into CSKA's starting lineup as an all-purpose big man whose defense and athleticism proved the perfect match for the team’s long-established system. Whatever the duty, Goree proved to be as dependable and professional as ever, delivering all season long to make CSKA into an even more efficient machine. Dedication and selflessness came back to Goree in a big way, too, with his first Euroleague trophy!
The honor of lifting the Euroleague trophy before anyone else is reserved for one player only among hundreds who seek the same prize every season. In 2008, that player was CSKA Moscow captain Zakhar Pashutin, who doubled his fun by again sharing the continental title with his brother Evgeniy, one of the team's assistant coaches. As such, Zakhar Pashutin will forever be remembered as CSKA's team captain on the night when the Russian powerhouse lifted its sixth continental trophy! .
It is impossible to overestimate point guard J.R. Holden's pivotal role in lifting CSKA Moscow to the top of European club basketball again. As CSKA won its second Euroleague title in three seasons, Holden led the champs in minutes played, assists, steals and three-pointers made at the 2008 Final Four. Indeed, Holden has started all but six of 142 Euroleague games CSKA has played during its record-breaking six-year string of Final Four appearances. His combination of talent, all-around skills and longevity has helped to make CSKA a dominant club again and to make Holden a signature star of European basketball in the new millennium.
Returning to CSKA after a three-year absence proved a glorious case of déjà vu for Viktor Khryapa. The 25-year-old forward not only won his first Euroleague title, but did so on the same Madrid court where he won a European Championships gold medal with Russia less than a year earlier. His return helped CSKA to confront mid-season injury problems and to take the Euroleague trophy home to Moscow, where Khyrapa is signed to play until 2012, giving him a future that looks brighter now than ever.
A great example of a CSKA player who sacrificed individual recognition for team glory is point guard Nikos Zisis, whose debut season in red-and-blue ended with his first continental crown. Just entering the prime of his career at 24, Zisis can already boast achievements that few players ever match: a Euroleague title, a European Championships gold medal with Greece and more Euroleague game appearances this decade than all but 26 other players. After five years as a Euroleague starter, Zisis joined CSKA last summer knowing that he would become a backup. Having filled that role to perfection, Zisis is now the proud owner of the ultimate team player's reward: a Euroleague trophy!
Although he was already a two-time Euroleague champion and had reached Final Fours with three different clubs, winning the 2007-08 Euroleague trophy with CSKA was arguably the sweetest so far in David Andersen's accomplished career. Not only did he play a major role throughout CSKA's entire championship season, including both Final Four games, but Andersen killed some ghosts, too.
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