Fenerbahce needed to win the BSL title badly after their heartbreak in Berlin. Emmet Ryan writes that the manner of their triumph was the perfect climax to a big season
Let’s all take in some context here. 14 months ago Fenerbahce had never even made it to a Final Four in Euroleague while no Turkish side had ever played in the final of Europe’s top tier tournament. Now? Fenerbahce can look back on a season where they nearly won it all. A second place finish in Euroleague, a Turkish Cup triumph, and on Monday they claimed the BSL title.
There was a touch of necessity to this triumph. Fenerbahce’s title win two years ago was shrouded in controversy after Galatasaray refused to field a team for Game 7. Whatever about that clash, this time they got a shot to take care of business on their own floor.
Having dropped Game 5, Fener had blinked at their first opportunity to take the title but their rout in front of their own fans didn’t take long to get going. The onslaught was a little sluggish in the first quarter before ramping up as the lead reached a whopping 40 points at one stage. This wasn’t some bottom feeding club they were taking apart, this was an Anadolu Efes side that had come into this season with one of the deepest rosters in Europe and still a side stacked with quality. Fenerbahce ran them roughshod and never let the possibility of a Game 7 enter the discussion.
It was also exactly what Fenerbahce had done for most of the season. Zeljko Obradovic’s side has followed the arc you want a champion to follow, improving as the important games approach, but it has also embraced the sheer arsenal at its disposal. There are just so many ways for Fenerbahce to hurt a team. From Bobby Dixon’s hero ball to the bruising interior presence of Jan Vesely and Ekpe Udoh with Nikola Kalinic, Luigi Datome, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Kostas Sloukas all offering different ways to pick a team apart. That depth can break an opponent’s spirit and when everything is clicking, routs like Monday night happen.
The bar has been set really high for Fener now. There is only one acceptable place to go next season and the pressure will be on. The big one, Euroleague, awaits but that title won’t just be given to them. Wherever the battle takes them next season, Fenerbahce can look back on nights like Monday. This side will know what it is capable of doing when everything goes right. Zoc earned this one on the floor. For one night, he got to celebrate it but he knew he’d only get one night of it. This morning there are plenty of tired heads in Istanbul. Once their eyes and heads clear, particularly in the offices of the newly crowned champions of Turkey, it will be time to get back to work. There’s one space in the cabinet that has never been filled. For a club to truly be a giant on this continent, that has to change.