The year of the underdog: 2017 in review

EuroLeague
EuroLeague

In ways, 2017 for basketball will go down as the year of the underdog as the first team from the Western Conference broke the London Games quorum to dismantle Eastern Conference foe, for whom as a conference had made the United Kingdom their second home. Fenerbahce protected homecourt, but on a different continent to win the EuroLeague and the people’s team conquered all to win Eurobasket.

And as 2017 comes to an end, there were many more highlights including the introduction of the new FIBA international window and champions being crowned in various domestic leagues around Europe.

Here are the highlights of the year 2017:

DENVER HAMMER INDIANA IN LONDON 

On a night where the rain hammered down on the O2 Arena, the Denver Nuggets made it rain inside as well as they eased to a 140-112 win over the Indiana Pacers.

The traditional NBA London game, the seventh one in all is usually reserved for Eastern Conference teams but the Nuggets, who came to London on the back of a five-game losing spell, broke tradition and came up against a Pacers side that had won five games in a row.

Many were expecting a Pacers blowout but what followed was an offensive masterclass by the Nuggets led by Serbian Nikola Jokic, who led the winners in scoring with 22, adding an impressive 10 rebounds and seven assists to his tally.

Mansoor Ahmed / MAP Photos

Nikola Jokic dominated in London as the Nuggets beat the Pacers at the O2 Arena.

On a night where then-Pacers superstar Paul George debuted his new signature PG1 shoe that would turn out to be one of the most purchased sneaker of the year, due to it affordability and vast amount of colourways, it was a night to forget as he struggled to make an impact on a gloomy evening in the UK.

TENERIFE WIN INAUGURAL CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TROPHY 

Tenerife became the first ever winners of the FIBA Basketball Champions League with a 63-59 win over Banvit.

In what was a difficult first season of the tournament, where questions were constantly asked of its true meaning? Whether FIBA “forced” teams to participate or have countries face international sanctions or if it was used as a genuine tournament to rival the EuroLeague remain to be unseen.

But what was sure, was that the first Champions League season produced a number of intense and exciting encounters that culminated in a final that made the first ever season of FIBA’s flagship event a memorable one.

Tenerife’s Marius Grigonis picked up Final Four MVP honours with 18 points on 6/10 shooting.

“It’s been an incredible year,” Grigonis said. “To finish this Basketball Champions League season with the title is just incredible.

“It’s been all year with these 12 players and the coaches, and the key to our success for sure is our defence and I’m just super happy for everybody.”

FENERBAHCE CLAIM EUROLEAGUE CROWN IN THEIR BACKYARD 

Fenerbahce won their first EuroLeague title with a victory in the championship game over Olympiacos at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul.

It was the second EuroLeague win by a home-town team in three Final Four events alongside Real Madrid in 2015. Fenerbahce’s triumph though came in the same city but on a different continent as they play their games on the Asian side of Istanbul.

An 11-4 run in the third quarter was the key to Fenerbahce’s 80-64 win over Olympiacos, who lost their third Final Four championship game out of five since 2010.

Nikola Kalinic and Bogdan Bogdanovic each scored 17 points for the winners with the latter making it his last action with Fenerbahce before heading to the NBA.

Unicaja Malaga won the EuroCup title as they ousted Liga Endesa rivals Valencia 63-58 in a deciding game three trailing by as many as 13 points late on, Unicaja went on an 18-0 run in the final period to seal a memorable win over a stunned Valencia.

UNBEATABLE SLOVENIA WIN UNFORGETTABLE EUROBASKET 

As a nation, Slovenia is the only country with the word ‘love’ featured, and they certainly captured the hearts of fans everywhere, especially their own.

Slovenia went unbeaten en route to a 93-85 win over Serbia in the final in Istanbul as Goran Dragic marked a fairytale ending to his international career with 35 points and tournament MVP honours.

Teen sensation Luka Doncic made headlines himself for his notable performances throughout the tournament with a spot in the All-Tournament starting five.

NEW INTERNATIONAL WINDOW BEING INTRODUCED

Only three months removed from Eurobasket, and the international games came back as the new FIBA window began with Eurobasket 2021 and World Cup 2019 qualifiers.

NBA players were unable to take part due to their hectic schedule and a handful of EuroLeague players featured in at least one of the two games played in the November window which left many criticising the level of competition, particularly as the first round of games were played on the same night as EuroLeague games with many preferring to focus on the latter.

The next round of games takes place in February.

Happy New Year.