One of the great forwards of the century, three-time Euroleague champion Matjaz Smodis has decided to call it quits as a player at age 33, after finishing his career in style.
Playing for his hometown team Krka Novo Mesto, a club where he started his outstanding career, Smodis was named the MVP of the playoffs finals series in his native Slovenia as Krka downed Union Olimpija 61-71 in Game 4 on Monday to win its fourth consecutive domestic title, and sixth in club history.
“Game 3 loss was a wake-up call for us. But we knew if we play tougher, harder, and show some teeth, it will be difficult for Olimpija to beat us,” Smodis said after scoring 21 points to lead Krka to Game 4 victory, and the national title. “Thanks to all the fans, and all the people at the club, for an ideal end of a long and successful career.”
For Smodis, this was his 16th domestic trophy, winning at least one with each of five clubs he played with during his career, in addition to three Euroleague titles he has to his name. The first Euroleague crown for Smodis came in 2001, also his debut Euroleague season, when his Virtus Bologna won the best-of-five Finals against Tau Ceramica. Two more titles Smodis won with CSKA Moscow in 2006 and 2008, both coming against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Interestingly, all three trophies came with Ettore Messina on the bench as the head coach.
Smodis was also a three-time Euroleague runner up, playing title games in 2004 with Fortitudo Bologna, as well as 2007 and 2009 with CSKA. All in all, Smodis played 11 Euroleague seasons, amassing 170 games. He ranks among Top 25 all time in both points (1,818) and rebounds (687), and is one of only seven players to have tallied at least 1,800 points and 650 rebounds in his career. In his company are only Nikola Vujcic, David Andersen, Mike Batiste, Dimitris Diamantidis, Erazem Lorbek and Luis Scola.
Smodis claimed his first professional title in 2000, when he won Slovenian National Championship with Krka. After that, Smodis went on to win Italian League trophies with Virtus Bologna in 2001 and with Fortitudo Bologna in 2005, as well as six consecutive Russian League titles with CSKA Moscow from 2006 to 2011. In the process, he also won six domestic cup titles, last one coming in 2012 when he joined Cedevita Zagreb of Croatia.
Now, winning it once again with Krka in his 19th professional season, Smodis ended up completing a full circle in his great career. He won the championship with his boyhood club, to make a definite exit from the game in the same surroundings where he once started, and put a fitting end to his long journey.