On February 3rd the Euroleague Basketball Experts Committee (pllllease) named its 50 most influential personalities to European Club Basketball from the last half century. The list means a ton to basketball on the world-wide stage, but most could probably glance at the list, shrug a shoulder, and move on.
Well to those of you that thought about shruggin’, here are the names you should know pulled straight from the article to make it easier on you!
- Manu Ginobili (1996-Present)
Teams: Estudiantes Bahia Blanca (ARG), Viola Reggio Calabria (ITA), Virtus Bologna (ITA), San Antonio Spurs (USA)
Summary: Manu Ginobili is an electric Argentinean swingman with incredible athleticism and talent who polished his game in Europe before becoming a global basketball star. Ginobili arrived in Europe at age 21 and soon joined Kinder Bologna in the summer of 2000. In just two seasons with Kinder, Ginobili helped his team to win an Italian League, a Euroleague crown and two Italian Cup titles while also reaching another Euroleague final in 2002. He was the 2001 Euroleague Finals MVP and later clinched three NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004.
- Drazen Petrovic (1979-93)
Teams: Sibenik (CRO), Cibona (CRO), Real Madrid (ESP), Portland Trail Blazers (USA), New Jersey Nets (USA)
Summary: A Croatian legend, Drazen Petrovic was sometimes called “the Mozart of Basketball.” Petrovic captured back-to-back Euroleague titles with Cibona in 1985 and 1986. He added Saporta Cup titles in 1987 and in 1989, scoring 62 points in the title game against Snaidero Caserta. Petrovic also won three Olympic silver medals, two with Yugoslavia and one with Croatia. He claimed gold at the 1989 EuroBasket and the 1990 World Championship before going to the NBA, where he averaged 22.3 points in the 1992-93 NBA season. Petrovic passed away still in his prime from a car accident in the summer of 1993.
- Mike D’Antoni (1969-90)
Teams: Marshall University (USA), Kansas City Kings (USA), St. Louis Spirits (USA), San Antonio Spurs (USA), Olimpia Milano (ITA)
Summary: A charismatic playmaker with great court vision and leadership, D’Antoni was the floor general who guided Milano’s back-to-back Euroleague titles in 1987 and 1988. D’Antoni arrived in Milano in the late 1970s and helped the team win five Italian League titles as well as a Korac Cup trophy. A steals specialist and a natural-born leader, D’Antoni started his impressing coaching career in Milano before moving to Benetton Treviso, whom he took to the 2002 Euroleague Final Four. D’Antoni is a successful NBA coach nowadays with the Phoenix Suns and remains a legend of European basketball.
- Vlade Divac (1985-2005)
Teams: Kraljevo (SRB), Partizan (SRB), Los Angeles Lakers (USA), Charlotte Hornets (USA), Sacramento Kings (USA)
Summary: A skilled big man with great passing and intelligence, Vlade Divac was a nightmare for every defender due to his post skills and all-around game. At the early age of 20, Divac helped Partizan reach the Euroleague Final Four in 1988. He then won a Korac Cup title with Partizan in 1989 before playing for 15 consecutive seasons in the NBA, still a record for longevity among European players there. Divac also led Yugoslav national team to gold at the 1990 and 2002 World Championships and lifted EuroBasket trophies in 1989, 1991 and 1995. He and Yugoslavia also won silver medals at the 1988 and the 1996 Olympics.
- Sarunas Jasikevicius (1994-Present)
Teams: University of Maryland (USA), Lietuvos Rytas (LTU), Olimpija Ljubljana (SLO), Barcelona (ESP), Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR), Indiana Pacers (USA), Golden St. Warriors (USA), Panathinaikos (GRE)
Summary: One of the few players known internationally by his nickname, “Saras” Jasikevicius is one of the most successful playmakers in European history. He helped FC Barcelona claim its only Euroleague title in 2003, then moved to Tel Aviv and won back-to-back Euroleague titles with Maccabi Elite in 2004 and 2005, earning MVP honors in the latter. Jasikevicius also earned All-Euroleague honors in 2004 and 2005. With the Lithuanian national team, he won EuroBasket 2003 and captured a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics. Jasikevicius spent two seasons in the NBA before he returned to Europe in 2007.
- Anthony Parker (1993-Present)
Teams: Bradley University (USA), Philadelphia 76ers (USA), Orlando Magic (USA), Quad City (USA), Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR), Virtus Roma (ITA), Toronto Raptors (USA)
Summary: A savvy and athletic swingman, Anthony Parker became a European basketball superstar playing the Euroleague with Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. Parker went from being relatively unknown to earning back-to-back Euroleague MVP awards, winning Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005 and reaching another final in 2006. He also took the 2001 SuproLeague trophy with the Israeli powerhouse. Parker, whose alley-oop dunks and finesse, trademark mid-range shots turned him into a European basketball icon, also won five Israeli League and Cup titles in as many seasons with Maccabi.
- Arvydas Sabonis (1981-2004)
Teams: Zalgiris Kaunas (LTU), Valladolid (ESP), Real Madrid (ESP), Portland Trail Blazers (USA)
Summary: Arvydas Sabonis blended a unique combination of talent, passing skills and shooting range rarely seen. Sabonis grew up with Zalgiris, where he won three consecutive Soviet Union titles and reached the 1986 Euroleague final. In 1995, Sabonis led Real Madrid to the Euroleague title. Sabonis also won 10 medals at numerous EuroBaskets, World Championships and Olympic Games. He captured 1988 Olympic gold with the Soviet Union and won back-to-back bronze medals with Lithuania in 1992 and 199
6. After a long career in the NBA, Sabonis came back to Zalgiris to play his final season, where he is also the team’s president.
- Walter Szczerbiak (1967-84)
Teams: George Washington University (USA), Pittsburgh Condors (USA), Wilkes-Barre Barons (USA), Real Madrid (ESP), Udine (ITA), Canarias (ESP)
Summary: A phenomenal scorer with all-around offensive skills, Walter Szczerbiak was Real Madrid’s top gun in the 1970s. Ambitious, with unlimited range and never afraid of taking big shots, Szczerbiak joined Real Madrid in 1973 and immediately helped the club to the Euroleague title in 1974 against Varese. Szczerbiak would score 26 points in the 1978 Euroleague final against Varese and hit for 16 in the 1980 title game against Maccabi Tel Aviv to lift two more top continental trophies. Szczerbiak, a superstar and a gentleman off the court, also won four Spanish league titles with Madrid.
Some great stories and amazing memories from many of these players and that is all from the time they spent playing in the U.S. These are legends in Europe; it makes me smile to think about the things they must have accomplished overseas to make this list. Congrats!