Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 22, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
THE EUROLEAGUE HISTORY ARCHIVE
TEL AVIV 2004: MACCABI BREAKS ALL RECORDS!
MACCABI ELITE 118-74 SKIPPER BOLOGNA
It's time to paint the basketballs yellow instead of orange! The Euroleague has a new champion after Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Skipper Bologna 118-74 in a record-breaking show never before seen in European basketball. Maccabi won with the most points by the biggest difference ever, going back almost 50 years since the start of European pro basketball. Maccabi's spectacular blowout punctuated a season that has lifted European basketball to new and greater heights. Before one of the most euphoric crowds in basketball history, Maccabi made a dream of the entire country of Israel come true without any bit of suspense. From the opening tap, Maccabi ruled its home floor at Nokia Arena, soaring to a 25-point halftime lead and never looking back. It marked the fourth time that Maccabi has lifted a cup as a continental champion. Though it had a home crowd of 10,458 was fully behind it, Maccabi took nothing for granted. Its 55 first-half points was a record in the Final Four era, and its defense was just as impressive. By the middle of the third quarter, it was showtime, as the Final MVP, Anthony Parker, rocked the rim with reverse dunks and Sarunas Jasikevicius dropped triples. The party had long since begun in the stands. Maccabi is champion of Europe, and there was no doubt about it!
Maccabi Elite 118-74 Skipper Bologna
Montepaschi Siena 94-97 CSKA Moscow
Montepaschi Siena 102-103 Skipper Bologna
Maccabi Elite 93-85 CSKA Moscow
INTERVIEW: SARUNAS JASIKEVICIUS, MACCABI ELITE
Sarunas Jasikevicius arrived at Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2003-04 season as a reigning Euroleague and European champion, who was supposed to put the Israeli champs over the top as the Final Four returned to Tel Aviv in the first time in a decade. Saras's talent and leadership proved critical for the yellow-and-blue, as he took a key role beside the team's other stars, Anthony Parker and Nikola Vujcic, to make Maccabi one of the most exciting and fun-to-watch teams in the history of European basketball. However, just as everything seemed to be going so right, it almost came derailed at the worst and last possible moment – with him on the bench. After Saras had fouled out in the last minute of Maccabi's head-to-head clash with Arvydas Sabonis's Zalgiris Kaunas in the Top 16 finale for the last Final Four spot, Zalgiris took a seemingly insurmountable three-point lead with the ball and seconds to go. But fate stepped in and a few missed free throws, a line violation and Derrick Sharp's miracle buzzer-beating three-pointer forced overtime and allowed Maccabi to go on to become the first dynasty of the new millennium.
You accomplished something rare, winning titles twice in a row with different teams. I know it's impossible to compare, but having gone through that, can you say anything about what teams who win Euroleague titles have in common in terms of attitude or psychology or togetherness in this era of what many people consider the best European basketball ever?
"I think normally it all comes under the category of organization. I was lucky enough to play for two amazing organizations, Barcelona and Maccabi. If you look at them, both have great presidents, great coaches, talented players and very nice chemistry. All those are obvious ingredients for me."
Even years from now, there will be no looking back on the 2003-04 season, without talking about Derrick Sharp's shot, the one that saved Maccabi's season? Do you still think about that from time to time? Nikola Vujcic said he thought about it every day.
"I wouldn't say every day. I do think about it a lot, when the conversation comes around. I think that shot that will stay with us the rest of our lives. I am glad I was on the right side of the shot, though."
That year was also the season of Sabonis, of his return to European basketball. Will you remember his presence as making the season itself extra special for you, not to mention all the younger players who were on court with him for the first time?
"Playing with him is very special. I was fortunate enough to play a couple times with him, and to watch him playing all my life. He's one of those guys who don't come along often. Talent like that, you don't know when you're going to have it again, not just Lithuania, but Europe in general. It was just real nice playing with him and against him, It was not so nice at the time, because it was difficult to win playing against him, but at the same time, that's something I'll remember the rest of my life. I'm just happy I got to compete with him and against him and watch him his whole career. As a Lithuanian, he was a huge, huge inspiration."
People may have thought you had it easy playing at home in the Final Four, but beating CSKA in the semis was no picnic, was it?
"The Final Four is always two tough games. We were fortunate to beat CSKA in a difficult game. At the end, I think we just came through with big plays in the third quarter to take control of the game. And then we managed to finish it."
The final was of course a record-breaking blowout against Skipper Bologna. What do you remember most about being on the court during that game, when it seemed like everything went perfectly right for your team?
"Against Skipper, it was a situation of two teams that were both very good and at a similar level, but one played out of its mind and another was not having such a great night. We had so much respect for them. We respected them like crazy, knowing they had beaten us in our own gym a few weeks before. It was a final where everything went right for one team, and not so much of anything for the other. The emotions? Our crowd and our city were amazing. It was really a perfect game for Maccabi. We got off to a very big lead right away, then continued fighting, not losing concentration, not letting them back in the game, and we succeeded at that also. At the end of the third quarter, it was obvious we would win, so we were playing the last 10 minutes with no pressure, hoping time would run out sooner so we could go celebrate with our families and teammates. It doesn't happen so often like that in such a big game."
Finally, you have played in many exciting places, but when the arena in Tel Aviv is full of yellow shirts, is there anything that compares to that in basketball that you know of? What does that do for a player?
"I'm not sure that anything can compare to that. I don't think anything does. When I think of basketball fans all over world, I don't think anything compares to Maccabi. I was lucky to be there and experience it. I was in the ACC Tournament in college in America, which was special, too. But Maccabi is a whole other level, with the fans singing songs all 40 minutes, and the whole country watching on Thursday nights. It was just amazing, really, to walk in there, see the shirts, hear them sing the songs. It made you want to do something special."
Champions: 1958 to 2012
See a list of all the champs
List of teams, players, coaches
50 Years of European Basketball
Through the decades
Interview: Aleksandar Gomelsky
Interview: Emiliano Rodriguez
Interview: Dino Meneghin
Interview: Mickey Berkowitz
Interview: Zeljko Obradovic
The best of the 2000s
All the Final Fours
Interview: Mike D'Antoni
Interview: Dino Radja
Interview: Toni Kukoc
Interview: Zoran Savic
Interview: Predrag Danilovic
Interview: Richard Dacoury
Interview: Jordi Villacampa
Interview: Arvydas Sabonis
Interview: Panagiotis Giannakis
Interview: David Rivers
Interview: Antoine Rigaudeau
Interview: Saulius Stombergas
Interview: Oded Kattash
Interview: Manu Ginobili
Interview: Ibrahim Kutluay
Interview: Dejan Bodiroga
Interview: Sarunas Jasikevicius
Interview: Nikola Vujcic
Interview: Theo Papaloukas
Interview: Dimitris Diamantidis
Interview: Trajan Langdon
Interview: Vassilis Spanoulis
Interview: Gianluca Basile
Interview: Dimitris Diamantidis
Interview: Vassilis Spanoulis