The man in the middle of the team that captured the most victories in the history of Europe's top club competition, Jan Vesely of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, has been voted by fans and the media as the Season MVP for the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Vesely becomes the first center to win the award in its 16-year existence, and the first player so honored from the Czech Republic. Vesely, 29, is playing in his eighth EuroLeague season and was chosen for the All-EuroLeague First Team for the third time as the driving force as Fenerbahce racked up 28 wins going into the final day of the season on Sunday. Vesely ranked fourth in the EuroLeague with an average performance index rating of 17.9 while also leading Fenerbahce in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks per game. Vesely was revealed as this season's MVP at the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Awards Ceremony in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain on Saturday.
An always-spectacular player known for his show-stopping dunks, Vesely raised his game to MVP levels this season with a dominant start to the season, averaging a 22.1 PIR as Fenerbahce raced to a 17-2 record to set the pace and eventually qualify for the playoffs earlier than any team ever. He opened the season with his second-best PIR until then, 34, in a home win over Herbalife Gran Canaria. He then posted his season-high scoring total of 24 points and matched his career-high PIR of 36 in an early-season showdown with eventual finalist Anadolu Efes Istanbul. The fourth-best PIR of his 204-game EuroLeague career, 33, soon came in a Round 13 home win against this season's other finalist, CSKA Moscow. He was named the MVP for December, the second such distinction of his career, for leading Fenerbahce to a 5-0 record that month. A month later, Vesely underwent knee surgery, but returned in a matter of weeks to resume his team's march toward a 25-5 record, the best in three years under the EuroLeague's new 30-game regular season format.
Vesely would finish as the season's 14th-best scorer at 12.5 points per game, matching his personal high for one season. He ranked fourth among all EuroLeague players with 1.3 steals per game and his total of 40 was the second-highest ever for a center. His 132 two-pointers made were the fifth-highest total this season and his 66.7% conversion rate inside the arc ranked ninth. Vesely established his career high of 7 assists on two occasions this season to average a career-high of 2.4, third among centers. He also made 107 free throws, tying for sixth-best in the EuroLeague, making them at a 78.7% rate.
Vesely becomes the 14th different player to become MVP since the current end-of-season awards format was introduced in 2005. He moved from his native Czech Republic as a teenager to join Partizan Belgrade in Serbia and make his EuroLeague debut in 2008, eventually helping that club reach its first Final Four of the century in 2010. After three years in Belgrade, Vesely returned to the EuroLeague in 2015 and has been central to Fenerbahce qualifying for five consecutive Final Fours, the third-longest such streak in competition history. Vesely's prominent role is clear by the media and fans having chosen him for the All-EuroLeague First Team after the 2015-16, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. He was central to Fenerbahce becoming the first-ever Turkish champion of Europe in 2017. Fenerbahce returned to the championship game, but lost to Real Madrid, in 2018, and on Sunday those two teams will play in the Third Place Game.
In an age when guards are said to dominate the game, Jan Vesely proved to fans, media and anyone who knows the game that big men still have plenty of impact as he becomes the first center ever to be voted MVP of the Season in the EuroLeague.