Barring injury, Nikita Kurbanov will become during Final Four weekend just the third player in CSKA Moscow's illustrious history to appear in 200 EuroLeague games for the club. When he started with CSKA, Kurbanov was a promising teenager who played sparingly but showed his talent whenever opportunities arose. Now in his third stint and 10th EuroLeague season with the club, Kurbanov is a team leader whose work ethic, deadly shooting and physical defense are central to what makes CSKA a perennial EuroLeague title contender.
On a team filled with stars, Kurbanov was the only CSKA player to start all four playoff games this season. He ranked second in the league in three-point shooting accuracy at 51.1% and led CSKA in two-point shooting at 66.1%. Both marks represent his career highs. Coupled with his invaluable contributions at the defensive end of the floor, Kurbanov is a vital cog in the dangerous CSKA machine.
Winning has followed Kurbanov every step of his career. He took part in the first Euroleague Basketball U18 Tournament Finals with CSKA in 2003, and then came back the next year to post a double-double in the championship game as CSKA won the title. Kurbanov also led the Russian Federation to the gold medal as MVP at the U20 European Championship in 2005. The next year, he was a member of CSKA's EuroLeague-winning squad, appearing in 17 games and, though still a teenager, playing 11 minutes in the team's semifinal win at the Final Four in Prague.
During the 2007-08 season, CSKA loaned Kurbanov to UNICS Kazan, and he played the next season with Spartak St. Petersburg. He returned to CSKA between 2010 and 2012 in a reserve role, just missing another EuroLeague title as a last-second runner-up in 2012. Next, he spent a full season each with Spartak, UNICS and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. With UNICS, he reached the EuroCup Finals in 2014.
When he joined CSKA for a third time prior to the 2015-16 campaign, it was clear this time that Kurbanov was coming to take on a significant role. That is exactly what has happened. Kurbanov's 132 games played since then ranks second among EuroLeague players and his 105 starts are tied for third. He has been a major factor in the team's success, including capturing the EuroLeague title in 2016 among four successive Final Four berths. Kurbanov's contributions were celebrated by the VTB United League in 2017 when he was honored as its Defensive Player of the Year.
Only 32 years of age, Kurbanov still has plenty left in the tank and his years of experience have only made him better. As a tried and true winner, watch out for his contributions for CSKA as Kurbanov targets his third EuroLeague crown in Vitoria-Gasteiz.