The city of Barcelona has hosted the Euroleague Final Four three times before. In 1969, 1998 and 2003; for true devotees of European basketball, the memories of these three events will be nearly as tangible as this week’s on-court action. For those who don’t (or are too young to) remember, BallinEurope this week presents looks at the competitions of Final Four past as supplied by the big league’s historians.
First, let’s go back to those halcyon times of ‘69. Then known as the European Cup, the tournament finale featured a final match in Cold War style, i.e. involving a last-second controversy, pitting Real Madrid against CSKA Moscow and starring the likes of Clifford Luyk and Vladimir Andreev…
Few European basketball fans know that one of the best games ever witnessed in Europe was the 1969 European Cup final in Barcelona. That game was played at the old Palacio de los Deportes, not far from the 2011 Euroleague Final Four site Palau Sant Jordi, and was the first such tourney hosted by the city. CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid – two giants of the sport, then as now – duelled in a thriller that featured five players and coaches later who would later be honored among the 50 greatest legends of the first half-century of European club basketball. Back in 1969, in the primes of their careers, theirs was a long-distance rivalry that defined the growth of basketball across Europe. And on that night, they were the protagonists of what became the longest continental trophy game ever played.
Straight to the cliffhanging fourth quarter we go!
Clifford Luyk fouled out at the end of regulation and Emiliano Rodriguez split free throws, thereby allowing Team USSR center Vladimir Andreev to get CSKA within 81-79. Cristobal Rodriguez missed inside, Andreev got the rebound, and fed Jaak Lipso for an easy shot that sent the game to overtime at 81-81.
Already facing the first extra period without Luyk, Madrid soon saw Emiliano commit his fifth foul, too. Even so, Wayne Brabender and Miles Aiken were able to give the Spanish powerhouse a 93-89 edge before Lipso once again rescued CSKA with a critical basket and free throws to tie the game again at 93-93. Aiken had a chance to win it, but was intimidated by Andreev into missing an easy shot.
(According to legend, Madrid coach Pedro Ferrandiz never forgave Aiken, who in fact never played for the Whites again after that night.)
Following Aiken’s miss, Lipso sailed to the basket with what seemed to be a go-ahead fast-break dunk with six seconds to go, but just when the entire CSKA team was celebrating, they learned that a travelling violation had been called and the game was instead headed for a second overtime.
The CSKA squad, led by coach Armenak Alachachan himself, was about to walk away from the game in protest of the controversial call and most of those in attendace were rooting for CSKA (or perhaps against Real, due to the ages-old Madrid-Barcelona sports rivalry), and most present reckoned CSKA had deserved to win with Lipso’s basket.
No matter: The Red Army controlled the second overtime well enough to come away with the 103-99 victory. The title represented CSKA’s first title since 1963 while denying Madrid the threepeat championship. From 1961 to 1971, the two teams would combine for eight European club titles plus five second-place finishes.
Andreev finished the game with 37 points and 11 rebounds. Eyewitnesses say he could have easily had more than 10 blocks, which were not recorded in the stats those days and he famously “recorded” three blocks on a single play in the game.
Sergey Belov added 19 points, Vadim Kapranov scored 18 and Gannediy Volnov contributed 12 for CSKA. Aiken led Madrid with 24 points; Brabender and Luyk each added 20 and Emiliano had 18. Alachachan became the first person ever to win the title as both player and coach, something that only Lolo Sainz and Svetislav Pesic have done since.
Madrid would not return to the final again until 1974, revitalized with a new generation of players that featured Walter Szczerbiak, Juan Antonio Corbalan and Rafa Rullan alongside Luyk and Brabender.
And the Final Four would return to Barcelona in 1998. To be continued…