The 2008-09 Euroleague season proved to be a defining moment for basketball in at least one great city: Berlin. The arc of the sport's acceptance in the German capital has been long, but there is no doubt that last season marked a culmination, with tens of thousands of fans flocking to Euroleague games at every chance up to and including the crescendo of the 2009 Final Four. None of it would have been possible without the efforts of Marco Baldi, the CEO of Alba Berlin, who has devoted his career to growing basketball in Germany. For leading the way to a glorious year for basketball in one of Europe's major metropolitan centers, Baldi has been recognized as the Euroleague's Club Executive of the Year for the 2008-09 season.
Over nearly two decades as its chief executive officer, Baldi has overseen Alba Berlin's rise to prominence and return to the Euroleague last season, where it averaged more fans than any other team and advanced to the Top 16 for the first time in club history. Even after Alba was eliminated in the Top 16, Baldi's efforts at making the new o2 World facility quickly become known as a home for Alba Berlin and European basketball in general helped pave the way for the smashing success of the 2009 Final Four. Baldi's background as a professional basketball player and a marketing executive has proven a perfect combination to make sure that Alba's record of achievement in Germany was matched fan-driven support for the team's bold move to the 16,000-seat o2 World. For determination in making both his team and the Euroleague a success, Baldi will be recognized as Club Executive of the Year at the upcoming 2009-10 Euroleague Draw.
Baldi, 47, has been a part of the Alba Berlin management since the club's inception in 1990 and has been the force behind its rise to the forefront of European basketball. He was first a successful basketball player who made 85 appearances for Germany's junior national team and played for BG Ludwigsburg and DTV Charlottenburg Berlin of the German first division. Baldi, who also completed his studies with a Masters degree in Business Administration during his playing days, turned to the private sector afterwards and became the head of marketing for the German-based technology company IBH Automation. Baldi returned to basketball as the manager of Charlottenburg, which was playing in the top German League, but was without a sponsor. It was his vision that brought the team together with Berlin Albatrosse (ALBA), a German recycling company, a union that changed the club's name and future. Within five years, Alba was able to win a European trophy – the Korac Cup in 1995 – the prelude to eight German League titles in the last 13 years.
In addition to Baldi's understanding of the game, which has seen him attract quality players and coaches to Alba, he has been instrumental in taking the sport of basketball forward in Germany as well. Alba and Baldi became trailblazers when they sealed a deal to make local side TuS Lichterfelde a farm team, a partnership that helped develop young players from both teams. Later, Baldi was made a member of supervisory board of the FIBA SuproLeague and a board member of German Basketball Bundesliga. In 2002, he was named a board member of the Euroleague. His club also sets standards for giving back to the community, with players and staff at Alba making regular visits to spend time and distribute gifts at local hospitals. In 2006, the team was involved in a project to build a gym for local youth. Through it all, Baldi has remained dedicated to the long-term success of the Alba Berlin basketball club, which already has earned a reputation among players and coaches as one of the premier clubs to work for anywhere in the sport.
Alba returned to the Euroleague last year after four seasons away and quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with, especially at o2 World. Victories in its first three home games paved the way to the Top 16. And even though the road ended there, Baldi and Berlin were able to witness the fruits of their long efforts at basketball promotion when the Euroleague Final Four filled their home arena and their city with a weekend's worth of celebration for the sport. The season continued with victory in the German Cup and a spot in the German playoff semifinals. This past season, just like so many before it, was further proof of the great success Marco Baldi and Alba Berlin have had together. As long as they remain together, win or lose, Alba Berlin will always be regarded among the best clubs in Europe.