The longest game

Mar 20, 2011 by Vladimir Stankovic - Print
Vladimir Stankovic Veteran sportswriter and collaborator Vladimir Stankovic has been following the best basketball on the continent longer than almost anyone journalist, writing for decades about the sport in major publications in both Serbia and Spain. For the new 2010-11 season, he offers a blog that honors the history of European basketball - even while history keeps being made!

If the game between CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid played in Barcelona in 1969 was the longest European title game ever, including a couple of overtimes, what was the longest game of any kind ever in this competition? There is not precise answer to that question due to the lack of accurate documentation, but the semifinal duel between OKK Belgrade and Real Madrid played on March 21, 1965 in Belgrade, Serbia, is a strong candidate. It lasted 113 minutes with no overtime! The first half lasted for 47 minutes and the second one 66. In the end, OKK won by 113-96 but lost their two-game series, unable despite all "efforts" to overcome Real Madrid's advantage from the first game, 84-61. The Spanish team advanced to the finals that season and defeated CSKA Moscow in another two-game series -- a 76-62 win in Madrid and an 88-81 loss in Moscow -- for its sceond straight title.

The 1964-65 season is remembered for setting a few records in the competition. Radivoj Korac, the legendary left-handed scorer of OKK,scored 99 points against Alvik of Sweden. The first game between those two teams, 90-136, added up to 226 points total, while the 155 points by OKK in the second game was 11 larger than the Antwerpen mark set three years earlier against Celtic Dublin, 144-60. The Finnish team Kisa Tovarit scored 100 points against Real Madrid, but received 109. The bright side for the Finns: they still share the highest point total ever by a defeated team.

Three saints

But the record of records would happen in the semifinal between OKK Belgrade and Real Madrid. The benches were led by two men who would become great friends, both of whom would earn a spot in the Hall of Fame of European basketball. OKK was coached by Borislav Stankovic, the future Secretary General of FIBA, while Real Madrid was coached by Pedro Ferrandiz, who, decades later, would build the foundation that bears his name. The game would also have a "third man", also an important person in the history of this sport: Robert Busnel. The Frenchman, future FIBA president, was the table commissioner, a novelty that FIBA had just introduced due to complaints about several courts.

In front of these "Three Saints" a not very sportsmanlike attempt took place, but due to the lack of evidence and, especially, because of the fact that Real Madrid finally advanced to the final, the issue went no further than some criticism in the Spanish press and the shy aknowledgement of the Belgrade press that "something happened with the official game clock". Real Madrid had won the first game, played on March 10 in Madrid in front of the future King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, by 84-61. Only six players scored: Bob Burges (24), Emiliano Rodriguez (18), Lolo Sainz (16), Carlos Sevillano (14), Cliford Luyk (11) and Moncho Monsalve (1). Real Madrid feared Radivoj Korac, but he scored 'only' 19 points, while their biggest problem that night was big man Trajko Rajkovic, who scored 29. Real Madrid reached Belgrade with a comfortable cushion of 23 points for the second game, but people of OKK truly believed that the deficit could be overcome. And aside from the tactical plan, they had a plan B.

The customized clock

Thanks to some trick, the official clock ticked away slower than normal. On first sight, everything seemed normal, but in reality, one minute would last almost double. At the halftime break, OKK Belgrade had managed to take a 45-32 lead, cutting the series deficit down to 10 points. Things looked even worse for the Real Madrid with an injury to Sevillano, who didn't even play in the second half. In minute 29, OKK Belgrade managed to up its lead to 20 points, 70-50. A few minutes later, Luyk and Sainz were out of the game due to respective fifth fouls. It was all up to Durand, Descartin, Rodriguez, Monsalve and Burges, the latter also being unable to finish the game. Two players that did not enjoy many minutes in that team had to step in, Jim Scott and Miguel Gonzalez. OKK tried to win by 24 in any way it could, but the goal was not accomplished even with the customized clock. Korac finished with 58 points, Nemanja Gordic added 18, Trajko Rajkovic 16. But the 25 points of Emiliano, 13 by Borges, 12 by Luyk, 11 by Sevillano, 7 by Monsalve, Descartin and Sainz, 6 by Durand and Scott and 2 by Gonzalez were enough for Real Madrid to survive the "never-ending game". Later, an analysis of the game proved that the first half lasted for 47 minutes and the second one 66. Pedro Ferrandiz, the Real Madrid coach, tells us about the game: "That very same day, the football team of Real Madrid was playing at home against Benfica in the European Cup. That game started a little later than ours but... they were done first!"

The Spanish press nicknamed the trick "The Yugoslav Minute", but in the end sports justice had prevailed: the better team reached the final and managed to defend its crown, becoming the first Western European team to do so after a seven-year dominance by Soviet teams. Borislav Stankovic and Pedro Ferrandiz still tease each other about the "never-ending game" today, 46 years after it took place.