No photo was splashed across more basketball websites or sports newspapers after the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game than that of Anadolu Efes Istanbul captain Dogus Balbay hoisting the trophy in celebration. Efes's all-time leader in EuroLeague appearances with 211, Balbay has been the heart of the team since he signed with Efes a decade ago. His defensive tenacity ensured Balbay always had a role, even in a star-studded backcourt, and his off-court leadership helped Efes convert its talented lineup into a winning formula.
Even though Balbay was called upon for only a few seconds on defense in each of the Final Four games in Cologne, the rest of the team all felt his presence through his constant support from the bench. After being at the core of the Efes teams that came so close so many times, whether in the playoffs or by losing the championship game in 2019, no player was more worthy of celebrating Efes's grand triumph and it was only fitting that Balbay had the honor to bring the EuroLeague trophy back to Istanbul.