The history of Euroleague basketball
Origins of the cup
The European Champion Cup was created in 1958 by FIBA, the basketball governing body and grew to be the most prestigious basketball tournament in Europe for more than four decades. In 1996, the competition began calling itself the Euroleague.
However, FIBA failed to copyright this name and a separate Euroleague Basketball competition began in 2000. Because of this, FIBA had to change the name of their Euroleague competition to the FIBA Suproleague, and from 2000 to 2001, there were two European continental competitions.
This split Europe’s teams as they were forced to choose between the two, and top tier teams joined both competitions effectively splitting Europe’s basketball league in half. This meant that, in 2001, Europe ended up with two separate champions – Maccabi Tel Aviv, the winners of the Suproleague, and Kinder Bologna, winners of the Euroleague.
Because of this, FIBA and Euroleague Basketball decided to merge the Euroleague and the Suproleague into the current Euroleague, thus combining all of the teams in Europe. Since a 2010 sponsorship deal, the competition is now called the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
The ‘50s and ‘60s
The first tournaments were all won by ex-Soviet teams with ASK Riga winning the first three competitions consecutively and CSKA Moscow and Dinamo Tbilisi taking two and one title each respectively. Throughout the 60s, however, the main powerhouse was undoubtedly Real Madrid, which reached a total of seven finals with four of those seven ending as wins.
Real Madrid has since gone on to be the most successful team overall with the most tournament wins – currently nine. Although CSKA Moscow remained a strong team throughout the decade with other wins and finals, ASK Riga has never since won a medal position.
The ‘70s and ‘80s
Although both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Real Madrid both flourished during the ‘70s with multiple wins and finals each, it was the team known as Varese that dominated the decade. The Italian team participated in every final for the entire ten years and walked away with five wins.
Towards the end of the ‘70s, Varese remained a top tier team but began losing their finals. Whilst three different Italian teams won the tournament in the 80s, Varese did not make a single final. The ‘80s saw numerous teams take home wins and almost all of them were from Italy or Yugoslavia.
The ‘90s and Beyond
Previously, a Greek team had never made a final, but in the ‘90s, they became a common sight with the two powerhouses, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, both reaching multiple finals and taking wins. Both teams have remained particularly strong, and at least one of the two has had a part in over half of the Euroleague finals since 1990.
In addition to them, the teams of CSKA Moscow and Maccabi have also been strong in the most recent decade. Maccabi has had a place in eight finals since the new millennium and have won four of them. In 2006, CSKA Moscow had its first tournament win since 1971 and has since gone on to be one of the top teams. They are now the current champions.