Last day of decade and the ideal one to present you TalkBasket’s Top10 Euroleague players of the decade. There is just one tiny criteria to be included in the list, to have played in Euroleague for at least five seasons from 2001 to 2010. So with just a few hours to 2011, we present you the best of the best!
10. Mirsad Turkcan (Turkey)
Starting the countdown with Mirsad Turkcan. Although he may not be in the Top10 lists of many people (or the official Euroleague list for that matter) but there is no doubt, he is an All-European All Star in the minds of European basketball fans who have not started watching basketball recently.
He has left his mark wherever he has played, and let me tell you, it was pretty big clubs: CSKA Moscow, Montepaschi Siena, Efes Pilsen, Dynamo Moscow and currently Fenerbahce. Not to mention he is playing in the elite European competitions since 1995! Name a Euroleague rebounding record, and Turkcan is the most likely holder of that record. As a real European bad-ass he was not given the chance to shine in NBA and after an epic dialogue with Van Gundy he returned where he truly belongs.
9. Nikola Vujcic (Croatia)
One of the master minds of the game. He has been baptised as a “paint play maker” amongst other things. Has played in every single Euroleague season of the decade. Can you name a Euroleague center who has dished out a two-digits number of assists in a game? Well, Nikola has.
Holder of two Euroleague titles with the super-sonic Maccabi Tel Aviv of the mid 2000s and numerous other minor and major MVP awards he did pretty much everything in the court and was always humble. Enjoy the glimpses of past grandiosity by him (during which he made the only two triple doubles of the past decade), it could be his last Euroleague season.
8. John Robert Holden (USA/Russia)
The only U.S. born player of the list, although he is now a Russian. Holden has got the Midas touch. Started his professional career in Latvia and since season one he has been winning numerous titles with each and every club he has played for. ASK, Oostende, AEK, CSKA Moscow. In fact he has won 10 local championships in a row since 2001.
3rd in assists, 5th in steals and 4th Euroleague scorer of all times just to mention a few of his monstrous statistics. An American player with a true European mentality, regarding basketball and how it should be played.
7. Luis Scola (Argentina)
The second -of the total two- Americans of the list (never mind that Argentinians are called Europeans in NBA, for some strange reason). The one-man-show of Argentina NT and Taugres and TAU (same team…).
7th in Euroleague all-times charts in ranking, rebounding and scoring. An untouchable dream for many of Euroleague powerhouses he didn’t settle for anything less than TAU or NBA.
6. Teo Papaloukas (Greece)
No man is a prophet in his own country. This could be the title of Papaloukas’ biography when it comes to basketball. Leaving Greece with just 1 Cup he returned victorious and glorious six years later and 11 trophies richer, including two Euroleague titles.
Has won every Euroleague MVP award available. Euroleague full season MVP, Euroleague Final Four MVP, Euroleague Week MVP etc… topping every assist category of Euroleague, including the 14 and 13 assists dished in two games. And we are talking about real Euroleague (meaning deflated) assists and not 50% inflated NBA assists (ask Steve Nash about it).
5. Dimitris Diamantidis (Greece)
The bionic Greek point guard will rarely make headlines but he does almost everything in the court almost perfectly, but the art he has mastered is defense. Five times holder of Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year award many say the award should be named after him once he retires.
But he is far from retiring, as he is having his best Euroleague season, to date. Two Euroleague titles, 1 Euroleague Final Four MVP and 13 points in 75 seconds are just some highlights of his career.
4. Matjaz Smodis (Slovenia)
One of the few players to have played in Euroleague since Day 1, non-stop, that’s 11 entire seasons. Winner of three Euroleague titles with different teams (Virtus Bologna and CSKA Moscow) he was Messina’s favourite player, hence took him with him to CSKA.
He might have his best days behind him already but in his prime he was a real threat in the court for everyone.
3. Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain)
When your nickname is “explosive device that relies on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy” (A.K.A. La Bomba) then you bet you’re one of the best out there.
A true symbol of Barcelona he was so good in the Euroleague that he decided to take his business to NBA for one season just because… he could. He proved his cojones on the other side of the Atlantic and reported back to business in Euroleague in no time. And all that sacrificing some big fat cheques he could easily get in NBA or another Euroleague tycoon club.
2. Sarunas Jasikevicius (Lithuania)
The guy has won four (yes, that’s 4) Euroleague titles in a span of seven seasons, two of which he spent in NBA -or rest assured he would win those two seasons as well- adding character, spice, highlights and, as aforementioned, titles, titles, titles to almost every team he has played for.
Even now at the, not so delicate, age of 35 entire basketball Europe hold their breath to know where this guy will play next, so they can see him in action. Unfortunately for Euroleague, there is no similar player emerging, for now. Russian commentators once said that Saras has a Pentium 4 instead of a brain. We will say his brain is way more powerful than a PC.
1. Dejan Bodiroga (Serbia)
The last real super-star of Euroleague, so far. Bodiroga is more than a player for many in Europe, more than human even after the infamous quote “Mi imamo svoga boga, on se zove Bodiroga” (=We have one god and his name is bodiroga), especially if it happens so that they are one of, or a combination of: Serbs, Milano fans, Real Madird fans, Panathinaikos fans, Barcelona fans, Roma fans, or better yet, pure Euro-ball fans. At 205cm he could play the point guard position as easily as he could play the small forward position.
Three Euroleague titles with two different clubs, many domestic and international titles and sheer talent gain him the “Euroleague legend” status and the #1 of our list.