Turkish Airlines Euroleague
June 19, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
The Euroleague champ you never heard of: Dinamo Tbilisi
Perhaps the most unknown Euroleague champion in the last half-century is Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia, who lifted the top continental Euroleague trophy in 1962. Founded in 1934 and already one of the oldest teams in Europe, it just took Dinamo four years to become an elite team in the Soviet Union championship. It was not until 1949, almost a decade before the Euroleague was created, that Dinamo won its first Soviet Union title with Otar Korkia as its signature player. It was the start of a golden era, as Dinamo would win both the Soviet Union League and Cup titles in 1950. The team went undefeated in 1953 and 1954 with players like Korkia, Givi and Guram Abashidze, Levan Intskirveli and Alexander Kiladze. Once the Euroleague was created in 1958, Dinamo made its European competition debut in 1960. Dinamo entered the Euroleague as the 1959 Soviet Union League champion, downing mighty ASK Riga. Even though it was supposed to be a competition only for domestic winners, ASK was the reigning Euroleague champion, so FIBA decided that a rule change had to take place to allow both teams to play the competition.
Dinamo did not have the best debut possible in the competition, losing 87-83 against CCA Bucharest of Romania in the first leg of the eighthfinals. Dinamo did not find much trouble to thrash CCA 90-68 in the second leg in Tbilisi and advance to the quarterfinals. The team then had new talents like Vladimir Ugrekhelidze, Anzor Lezhava, Levan Moseshvili and Vladimir Altabaev, and also founded its own basketball school. Tbilisi was one of the reference cities in Europe and Dinamo helped basketball to become very popular in Georgia. Dinamo swept its series against Akademik Plovdiv of Bulgaria to advance to the semifinals against Polonia Warszawa. Dinamo hosted the first leg in Tbilisi against a Warszawa team that featured superstar Janusz Wichowski. Dinamo led 39-36 at halftime and pulled away after that for an 88-65 home win and a huge lead in the series, which proved to be more than enough to control the second leg in Poland and advance to the final. ASK Riga stood in the way to success, featuring players like Maigonis Valdmanis, Valdis Muzinieks and above all, the unstoppable Janis Krumins. ASK, coached by Alexander Gomelskiy, won the first leg 51-61 and swept the series with a 69-62 home win in Riga behind 28 points by Krumins. Guram Minashvili had 15 points for Dinamo in that game and Intskirveli added 12.
The club returned to the Euroleague in the 1961-62 season. CSKA Moscow had won both the Soviet Union and the Euroleague titles, so Dinamo entered the top competition as the Soviet Union League finalist. With Ugrekhelidze and Altabaev as its main stars now and Korkia as its coach, Dinamo had to battle hard to once again down CCA Bucarest in the eighthfinals. Tblisi edged Bucarest 76-77 in the first leg and took a 45-28 halftime lead in the second leg in Tbilisi, more than enough to coast to an 82-77 result and to advance to the next round. Tbilisi had an easy quarterfinals matchup against Darussafaka of Turkey, as it got two easy wins, 67-80 in Istanbul and 84-49 at home. CSKA was waiting in the semifinals and Tbilisi stepped up right in time. Dinamo beat CSKA 71-75 in Moscow behind 22 points from Ugrekhelidze on April 25, 1962 and it had to wait until July 7 to get a 77-66 win in Tblisi to sweep the series and make it to the final against Real Madrid, which featured superstars Emiliano Rodriguez, Carlos Sevillano and Wayne Hightower.
Due to bureaucratic restrictions – no Soviet citizens were allowed to get inside Spain at the time – FIBA decided to have a single-game final in Geneva, Switzerland on July 29, 1962. The late Raimundo Saporta played a key role to mediate with both parts and reach an agreement to play the final in a neutral country. The Patinoire Arena in Geneva was not conditioned for elite basketball at that time, with wooden backboards among the shortcomings. An unstoppable Hightower single-handedly kept Real Madrid in the game throughout the first half, but Dinamo still managed to keep a 38-36 edge at the break. Anzor Lezhava, a 2.06-meter center, stepped up in the second half, helped by Altabaev and Aleksander Kiladze, allowing Dinamo to get a 90-83 win and lift its only Euroleague title.
Altabaev led Dinamo with 19 points, Khazaradze added 18, Ugrekhelidze had 15 and Lezhava 12. Minashvili, Levan Moseshvili, Intskirveli, Amiran Skhiereli, Ilarion Khazaradze, Alexander Petrov and Revaz Gogelia also took part in the game. Dinamo’s talent and its sportsmanship were both on display as the whole team gave Hightower a standing ovation when he fouled out with 32 points.
Dinamo would reach the 1963 Euroleague semifinals but lost against CSKA Moscow and its golden days came to an end. Dinamo managed to win four Soviet Union League and also four Soviet Union Cup titles. The last one came in 1969, with Ugrekhelidze and Altabaev still in the team, as well as Otar Korkia's son, Mikhail. Dinamo made it to the 1969 Saporta Cup – then Cup Winners' Cup – final against Slavia Praha, but Jiri Zidek and his team stood in the way of success with a 90-74 win. Once Georgia became independent in 1991, Dinamo rose again to win the first-ever Georgian League title in 1992. The team had to wait for more than a decade to lift its next trophy – the 2003 Georgian League title, downing Basco Batumi 3-2 in the best-of-five finals. The fans in Tbilisi hope that more success is in store in years to come. Regardless, those that have been around long enough know that Dinamo Tbilisi was one of the greatest teams in European basketball history.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net