The EuroCup season is over, and the final between Valencia and Unicaja was the best possible way to finish this spectacular competition. Unicaja clinched the trophy by winning the final quarter of the deciding game in Valencia 20-4. Unicaja came back from 11 point deficit in the fourth quarter and shut most of the European basketball analysts (including me) up. I don’t understand what Joan Plaza said to his team at the break before the final quarter, but it must have been something magical. If you miss Space Jam just watch the final game of the EuroCup. And I am extremely happy that the whole season was just as intriguing as the deciding seconds.
FIBA failed to destroy EuroCup
FIBA showed its true colors and tried its best to destroy Euroleauge and EuroCup before the 2016-2017 season started. Fiba went as far as sending letters to all the largest basketball federations in Europe, threatening to kick them out of the international basketball competitions if any of their clubs joined Euroleague’s competitions. Obviously, FIBA only made fool out of itself, and all the best clubs stayed with Euroleague. On top of that, Euroleague and EuroCup changed the system drastically to make both competitions even more fierce than before. What was the final result? Well, I have to say that Eurocup was never more interesting and competitive than in this season.
20 teams started in the EuroCup this season, of which six were from Spain and four from Russia. It clearly indicates that Spain is still the most dominant force in the Europe… “and Russia?” you might ask. Well, Russians have more money than they could spend, but there is barely any Russian player who can play on the top level. Most the Russian clubs rely on physically gifted Americans.
That said, Alexey Shved, Russian from Khimki Moscow Region, became the EuroCup MVP this year. He averaged 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Those numbers might seem miserable compared to Russell Westbrook, but remember that Shved played in Europe, where team basketball dominates, and it’s much harder to fish for the stats. Sadly, Alexey Shved couldn’t lead his team further than quarter-finals, where Khimik lost to Valencia. Still, Russians must pray that Shved would come to EuroBasket this year to help Russia.
Amar’e Stoudemire and attendances
I have a feeling that Amar’e Stoudemire might be the reason why Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem had the best attendance throughout the season of the EuroCup. I mean, an average of 8,589 people came to watch Israelis play, while Alba Berlin on the second place only gathered 6,776 fans per game. If it is not the Amar’e Stoudermire’s popularity, I must take my hat off to Israelis for their love of the game. Unicaja and Valencia ranked third and fourth in attendance throughout the season respectfully. Naturally, those teams boosted their numbers during the final, when tickets were sold out.
Also, Vilnius Lietuvos Rytas improved a lot when it comes to attendance. I cannot say a good word about the team itself as it was painful to watch them trying to play basketball this seasons, but fans made a huge improvement. The attendance grew up by 100 percent compared to the last season, and 5,300 Lithuanians came to Siemens Arena on average. Of course, the numbers are miserable for a basketball country like Lithuania, but at least we can smell that the change is coming.
I have already talked about Russian teams with an awful lot of money to spend. Sadly, those teams don’t understand that some money must be spent on marketing as well. As usual, only mothers and close relatives of the players came to watch the games in Russia. For example, Khimik, one of the top performing clubs in EuroCup, had an average of 2,000 people audience. It is ridiculous, and I believe that EuroCup must find a way to attract bigger audiences if it wants to become a world class competition.
Things to improve
I give a solid 9/10 to the EuroCup 2016-2017 as it went smooth despite all the pressure from FIBA. On top of that, I really enjoyed the new system and fierce competition. That said, there are still some things to improved going forward.
First of all, I think that Final Four would be a better way to end the competition. I mean, the EuroCup is not yet that popular to attract big crowds, who would want to watch some best of three series between 5th best Spanish team versus Macedonian no names? Let’s be honest here; financially, long series work best when people all over the world are crazy about the playing teams. Sadly, it won’t be the case with the EuroCup for many years to come. That is why, if the EuroCup changed back to the final four, more people would come to watch the finals.
Also, the EuroCup must invest some extra money in marketing. It is a shame when only 1,000 people come to watch a game between some of the top level clubs in Europe. I refuse to believe that people don’t care about basketball in Europe and blame it to the bad marketing of the whole competition and clubs. Why cannot every team hire old and famous players like Amar’e to attract some fans?
Anyway, the EuroCup might not have been the most exciting competition ever, but it definitely pushed to the limits on the given circumstances. After all, teams like Budućnost VOLI (“what is that?”) or Lietkabelis (“Liet who?”) will never reach the level of NBA or even Euroleague. That said, it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t feel the hype when those teams are playing. And with what I saw this season, I believe that EuroCup is on the right track to make us all fall in love with mediocre European basketball again.