After thrilling fans all over the continent with his skill and daring throughout the most competitive season in the history of European basketball, Sergio Llull of Real Madrid was rewarded on Saturday for his virtuoso accomplishments by being named the MVP of the 2016-17 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Llull learned of the MVP honor at the end of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Awards Ceremony to highlight a gala evening at the opulent Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, on the next-to-last night of the 2017 Final Four. The trophy for the top performer of the season was presented to Llull by new Euroleague Basketball Legend Mirsad Turkcan.
Llull's fellow members of the previously announced All-EuroLeague First Team – Bogdan Bogdanovic and Ekpe Udoh of Fenerbahce Istanbul, Georgios Printezis of Olympiacos Piraeus, and last season's MVP, Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow – were also honored at the event. So was the 2016-17 All-EuroLeague Second Team – Brad Wanamaker of Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul, Milos Teodosic of CSKA, Nicolo Melli of Brose Bamberg, Gustavo Ayon of Real Madrid and Bryant Dunston of Anadolu Efes Istanbul – as were the winners of the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, Keith Langford of Unics Kazan; the Rising Star Trophy, Luka Doncic of Real Madrid; and the Best Defender Trophy, Adam Hanga of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, who was unable to attend due to his professional commitments.
Llull received more votes than any other player during the MVP selection process, which was open to both fans and media. In his 10th season with Madrid, Llull posted career-best EuroLeague averages with 16.4 points, 5.9 assists, 2.2 three-pointers made and 16.8 performance index rating over 32 games while leading his team to the Final Four. His unbelievable knack for hitting buzzer-beaters from all distances and angles made him as dangerous and decisive as any player in the league, while his non-stop commitment at both ends of the court went a long way to assuring Madrid the best record, 23-7, in the longest regular season in competition history.
Llull, a EuroLeague champion with Madrid in 2015, will play in Sunday's third-place game at the Final Four after his 28 points in a loss Friday to Fenerbahce Istanbul matched the most in a semifinal at the event this century.
At 29 years old, Llull is the undisputed leader of Madrid and the motor of its offense. He ranked third in the EuroLeague this season in assists, fifth in scoring and eighth in performance index rating. When the stakes were raised, the Madrid playmaker boosted his number to 18.5 points and a 17.8 index rating in four playoff games against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul. Llull started in every game this season and led Madrid in minutes played (27:44 per game) and a total of 70 three-point shots made, another personal best and the fourth-most in the competition. Llull was named MVP of November, a month during which he averaged 21.4 points per game. He also earned MVP honors for Rounds 7 and 27. Llull made his debut on the All-EuroLeague First Team after having previously been voted to the second team in 2010.
Llull started the competition on fire, scoring 22 points against Olympiacos and getting a double-double of 14 points and 11 assists in a road win against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Soon after that, Llull broke his personal EuroLeague scoring record by dropping 30 points in a narrow home win against Panathinaikos Athens. Llull continued leading Madrid, scoring 20 points in a road triumph against FC Barcelona Lassa and hitting three consecutive bombs from way downtown to help Madrid down CSKA Moscow 95-85, a win that would eventually allow Madrid to finish first at the end of the regular season. Not only did he have 26 points in an 89-91 road win against Brose Bamberg, but Llull hit an unbelievable game-winning floater to win that game. Fans had come to expect such heroics from Llull, though. Several of his many three-pointers during were made with the shot clock or game clock about to expire, each one seemingly more impossible than the last – but they all fell through the net to the amazement of the crowds.
"First of all I have to say that it is an honor for me to receive this award," Llull said on the stage immediately after accepting the trophy. "I want to congratulate all players here tonight. I think they all could have won it. I also want to thank the fans and media for voting for me. Last but not least, I want to thank my teammates and coaches who work with me all year, because without them it would have been impossible to win this award. Thank you."
Llull becomes the 12th different player to win the MVP award since the current end-of-season awards format was introduced in 2005. He is the third Spanish-born MVP, after Juan Carlos Navarro collected the award in 2009 and Llull's former teammate Sergio Rodriguez won it with Madrid in 2014. Llull started his career in La Salle in his hometown Mahon and played for Basquet Manresa before joining Real Madrid in 2007. In addition to his EuroLeague title in 2015, Llull has helped Madrid win four Spanish League and five Copa del Rey titles, in addition to the Intercontinental Cup title in 2015. Llull has also been very successful with the Spanish national team with which he has won three EuroBasket gold medals and one bronze, as well as two Olympic medals, silver in 2012 and bronze in 2016. He celebrated 10 years since signing with Madrid a few days ago and now Llull can mark the anniversary as the season's most valuable player, adding his name to the EuroLeague history books in golden letters!