History will be made in Madrid Sunday as both CSKA and Maccabi Elite try for their sixth European Cup title in the first title game in the Spanish capital after more than four decades. The late Raimundo Saporta came up with the idea of doing the first-ever Final Four in Italy in 1966 as an experiment. Simmenthal Milano won the title in 1966 when the games were played in Milano and Bologna. The next Final Four would take place in Madrid and the format would disappear after that season, not to come back until 1988, when it caught on for good. Just like today, 24 teams took part in the competition, but due to a rule change in the Soviet Union, CSKA had lost three of its best players: Viktor Zubkov, Yuri Korneev and Oleg Brodin. A sellout crowd of 5,000 people in the at-the-time brand-new Ciudad Deportiva Arena of Real Madrid made it to each game of the Final Four, which featured Real Madrid, defending champion Simmenthal, Slavia Prague and Olimpija Ljubljana. Madrid boasted the likes of Emiliano Rodriguez, Miles Aiken and Clifford Luyk as its signature players, as well as legendary head coach Pedro Ferrandiz. Milano, coached by the great Cesare Rubini, had lost Bill Bradley, but still had a powerful team with scoring machine Steve Chubin, center Austin "Red" Robbins and Gabriele Vianello. Slavia had its own superstar in Jiri Zidek, possibly the best Czech player of all-time, while Slovenian legend Ivo Daneu led Olimpija.
The semifinals were played on March 30, 1967. Simmenthal beat Slavia Prague in the first game and Madrid edged Olimpija in the second. Simmenthal used its experience to rally from a 9-point halftime deficit to down Slavia 103-97 behind 33 points from Robbins. Chubin added 29, while Vianello had 27 for Milano. Jiri Zednicek scored 23 points and Jiri Ruzicka 11 for Slavia as star Zidek was limited to just 14 points. Simmenthal managed to put its opponents' key players into foul trouble to win the game and advance to the final. Madrid, pushed by an incredible crowd, edged Olimpija 88-86 in the second semifinal. Aiken paced the winners with 31 points, Rodriguez added 21 and Luyk had 18. Borut Basin had 28 points for Olimpija, while Daneu added 24. Slavia finished third, downing Olimpija 88-83 on April 1, 1967. Zednicek led Slavia with 29 points and Zidek added 17. Daneu had 39 for Olimpija. In the title game, Madrid beat Milano 91-93 to lift the European Cup trophy for the third time in four years. Rodriguez paced the winners with 29 points, including most of the key baskets in the final minutes. Aiken added 23 and limited Robbins to just 6 points. Madrid won a fourth European Cup title in 1968 and would add four other continental crowns to become the winningest team in the competition. Meanwhile, Milano would come back to win back-to-back European Cup titles in 1987 and 1988. It has been 41 since that special Final Four, but now the best game possible in European club basketball is back in Madrid.