Real Madrid have dubbed their ninth Euroleague success last night against Olympiacos La Novena [the ninth] but to read about the eighth European crown, you have to go back twenty years to 1995.
Back then, the FIBA European League was the pinnacle for all basketball clubs in Europe and when the 1994-95 group stages got underway, 50 preliminary round games has already been played with Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos, Maccabi Elite, Cibona and Efes Pilsen all advancing to the regular season.
Real Madrid and Olympiacos were the only two sides to have received automatic entry to the group stage as 16 teams were separated into two pools with the top four qualifying to the quarter-finals.
Both Real and Olympiacos finished second in their respective groups, behind Panathinaikos and Limoges respectively. Both finished with 9-5 records, and people saw the Spanish side as slight favourites, despite finishing second.
Coached by Zeljko Obradovic, then a fresh faced figure to the coaching scene having retired as a player in 1991, Real posed a strong line-up, featuring Arvydas Sabonis, Joseph John Arlauckas and Jose Miguel Antunez to name a few. They were a strong team, backed up by an enthusiastic, vocally passionate leader on the sidelines.
Olympiacos on the other hand boasted a solid all-round team that worked for each other. Though better known for their efforts today, the Reds didn’t have superstars on their roster but they all contributed, which was the leading factor to their success.
Led by Eddie Johnson and Alexander Volkov, the Greek side had two standouts, but they fitted in with the team ethic that suited them.
Madrid breezed past Cibona in two games, beating them 82-78 in Zagreb, thanks to 28 points from Arlauckas and then ousting their Croatian counterparts again 82-70 in game two. New York-born Arlauckas once again standing out with 29.
Olympiacos had to go to the limit in their series against CSKA Moscow as the Russian outfit dominated the second half of game one to turn a 43-42 edge into a resounding 95-65 win.
CSKA threat Vasily Karasev recorded a stunning triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Greeks returned home knowing that they needed to win in order to stay alive in the competition and in front of 15,000 screaming Olympiacos fans in Piraeus, they got the job done thanks to 28 points from Johnson, leading them to an 86-77 win.
That result swung the momentum back in Olympiacos’ favour. Coach Giannis Ioannidis and his side had a determined look about them as the deciding game three approached.
And another 15,000 sell out in Piraeus were ready with anticipation. But to start, those fans saw their Greek heroes start off sluggish against a CSKA team fielding only five players.
Pre-game, many thought that this would be Olympaicos’ time but they were far from convincing to begin.
It was only when CSKA’s Igor Kudelin fouled out five minutes into the second half when sprung Olympiacos into life. Playing five against four allowed the Reds to establish a double digit lead and then a spot in the Final Four was ultimately stamped when Alexey Vadeev fouled out with five minutes left, leaving the hosts free to run riot against three Muscovites.
Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds as Olympiacos triumphed 79-54.
Real Madrid enjoyed home advantage with the Final Four being held in Zaragoza and they held firm to hold Limoges to under 50 points, winning 62-49.
Olympiacos beat arch-rivals Panathinaikos 58-52 in a pulsating clash that set up the championship game.
It’s hard to imagine, twenty years on and with basketball evolved in such a way that the 1995 final was on basic cable television with most countries unable to watch unless you lived in either Greece or Spain.
This year’s Final Four in Madrid was broadcasted to more than 200 countries worldwide and if you were unable to watch the action, various social media handles were on hand to make sure that you were kept updated.
Here is the 1995 championship game between Real Madrid and Olympiacos (users with no broadband or low internet speeds might struggle to view this game without interruption)