Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 22, 2013
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Decade to Decade: The Eighties
Decade to decade
The Eighties: Decade of the stars!!
If the first 25 years of Europe's top-level basketball competition was remarkable for the dominance of a relative few clubs, the 1980's tried to change that trend. This would be the decade of the stars: Mickey Berkowitz and Kevin Magee (Maccabi), Drazen Petrovic (Cibona), Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marculionis (Zalgiris), Bob McAdoo, Mike D'Antoni and Dino Meneghin (Philips), Juan Antonio San Epifanio (Barcelona), Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Dusko Ivanovic (Jugoplastika). "There was a large number of good players," Berkowitz said in a recent Euroleague.net interview. "It was hard to make it to the final." Just the same, several of those stars, the legendary Petrovic and McAdoo among them, would leave their marks with back-to-back titles before the decade ended with a team full of young phenoms, Jugoplastika, shocking the continent with three straight crowns.
With so many stars in so many countries, no single team or country could dominate the early Eighties. After the supremacy of the trio formed by CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and Varese from 1956 to 1980, the title won by Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1977 represented the birth of another great team. Even though Maccabi would make four finals in the Eighties, it won just one more title. Four years after winning its first title, Maccabi repeated that success in 1981 in Strasbourg by beating Syunudine Bologna (Virtus) by only one point, 80-79. Berkowitz, with 20 points, was the best scorer for the winners.
"It's true that I have retained more memories of that first title, because it was my first time and I was only 23," Berkowicz said. "Of course, I also remember our second title and all the finals that we played, so yes, I think that Maccabi could be the team of the eighties. Of course, to lose a final you have to play it, you have to advance until the very last game."
Just like Dino Meneghin, Berkowicz says that players then identified themselves with their teams more than players do nowadays. "This is the biggest difference between that time and now," Berkowitz said. "I spent all my career in Maccabi and I don't regret it. I had lots of offers to join other great teams of that time but I never planned to leave Maccabi and my country. I was happy there."
To Berkowicz, the most important thing of the Eighties were the players.
"Real, CSKA, Ignis and Maccabi were great rivals, but other teams started to arrive from all over Europe, the number of good players was so large," he said. "In Bologna you had Kreso Cosic and Brunamonti; in Varese, Dino Meneghin and Osola; in Real Madrid, Brabender and Walter Sczerbiak; in CSKA, Miskin and Eremin; in FC Barcelona, Juan Antonio San Epifanio; in Zalgiris, the golden generation was just born with Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marculionis; in Yugoslavia, Drazen Petrovic was already the leader of an excellent generation of players; we had Kevin Magee. Just making it to the final was extremely tough."
In 1983, for the first time since the early years when Russia dominated the competition, two teams from the same country, Italy, played the final. Ford Cantu, led by Pierluigi Marzorati and Antonello Riva - still playing in Varese at age 40! - beat Billy Milan 69-68. Meneghin had already jumped from Varese to Milan, where he joined Mike D'Antoni and Roberto Premier, who would make their presence felt soon enough. The Italian success continued in 1984 when Roma beat Barcelona in Geneva.
The next two years were reserved for Cibona Zagreb, led by the genius Petrovic. Real Madrid made it to one of those finals, 1985 in Athens, but glory would take sides with Petrovic, who scored 36 points. One year later in Budapest, Cibona stayed in the throne of continental basketball by beating the Zalgiris of Sabonis, Kurtinaitis, Chomicius, Jovaisa and Krapikas. As often was the case, three Cibona players scored almost identically: Petrovic 22 points, Sven Usic 23 and Danko Cvjeticanin 24. Zoran Cutura added 16, and against the efficiency of Cibona's backcourt, Sabonis' domination in the paint with 27 points and 14 boards wasn't enough. The next year, 1987, Tracer Milan gave the crown back to Italy by defeating Maccabi in Lausanne 71-69 in a game where Premier hit 23 points, McAdoo 21 and Barlow 18 for the winners, while for Maccabi, Lee Johnson led with 24, Magee added 16 and Doron Jamchy 15.
In the late Seventies, FIBA had changed its competition system to culminate in a final phase of 6 teams playing 10 games each. The top two teams at the end of that mini-league then played the final game, always on a neutral court. That system was changed again for the 1987-88 season, when the Final Four was played for the first time. The previous phase was expanded by 2 teams to make 8, and the final standings after 14 weeks was: Partizan, Aris, Tracer Milan, Maccabi, Barcelona, Saturn Cologne, Orthez and Nashua Den Bosh of Holland. The first four teams played the Final Four in Ghent, Belgium. Milan managed to repeat as champion by beating Maccabi once again, 90-84, with Bob McAdoo as Milan's MVP with 25 points and 14 rebounds.
The last two years of the decade and the first year of the Nineties were set aside for Jugoplastika Split, a very young team full of talent, ambition, will and hard work. Those features could also be applied to its young head coach, Bozidar Maljkovic, who was only 37 when his team won its first title, at Munich in 1989. Maljkovic knew how to merge the talents of Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Velimir Perasovic with the experience of Dusko Ivanovic, the tranquility and rationality of Zoran Sretenovic and Luka Pavicevic. All of them were complemented with the arrival of Zoran Savic in the summer of 1989. Goran Sobin and youngster Zan Tabak would find in him the perfect teammate to help them under the rims. It was the birth of a great team with a great coach. Since their feat of three consecutive titles ending in 1991, not a single team has managed to win the title even twice in a row.
Friday, March 01, 2002
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