Herbert Hainer was impressed. There he stood in the midst of 6,500 raging people and said: “That really was one of the most beautiful evenings I’ve spent here.” The President of FC Bayern has also witnessed what is probably the biggest triumph in Munich’s basketball history. With the 59:52 victory against FC Barcelona, FCB has forced a decisive fifth game in the Euroleague quarter-finals for the second time in a row, the knockout round will be played in best-of-five format. Last year, the decisive game was narrowly lost in Milan, but the series took place without spectators due to the pandemic.
Only the opponent made this Friday night special, the Catalans have a select squad with many big names, have dominated the premier class so far and have moved into the playoffs as the clear first in the main round. Of course, in this context, the name Nikola Mirotic immediately comes into play, the 2.03 meter tall winger who is considered the best and best paid in Europe. Three years ago, the native Montenegrin was lured to Barcelona with a Spanish passport, for which he even gave up a double-digit million salary in the NBA. According to reports, Mirotic still earns around four and a half million euros in Barcelona, and the Munich team does not have to shell out much more for the entire squad. And the 31-year-old is by no means the only extra talent in the team. Compatriot Alex Abrines joined Mirotic from the NBA, and Nick Calathes, the best passer in Euroleague history, is pulling the strings. Dante Exum was signed from the NBA in December, and center Brandon Davies also has a past in the world’s top league. The squad is completed by experienced European top players, the task is clear: the Euroleague title.
The majority of Munich’s players have little experience in knockout games at this level, with Barcelona it’s the other way around
Only veteran Othello Hunter has already won the Euroleague in the Bayern squad, with the injured top scorer Darrun Hilliard missing one of the few players with experience in knockout games at this level. Deshaun Thomas, Augustine Rubit and Vladimir Lucic should also be mentioned, but the majority of the players lack the experience that is so important in these close and intensive comparisons. But this penalty is compensated by an irrepressible will to fight, sometimes this team gives the impression that they simply refuse to accept reality. On Friday evening, she held the offensively so excellent opponents at 52 points, a historically poor number for Barcelona. After the most recent performance in the fifth game on Tuesday (8 p.m.) in the Palau Blaugrana, which was probably sold out with 7,600 spectators, even reaching the Final Four tournament for the title in the highest European competition is no longer unthinkable.
Barca coach Sarunas Jasikevicius spoke of a shame after the defeat in Munich, every player should now have understood what it’s all about. In any case, a premature exit should have consequences in the squad, so the pressure is enormous.
The Bavarians, on the other hand, boarded the plane to the Catalonian metropolis quite calmly on Monday. Even in the event of a defeat, which is expected by the entire professional world anyway, they could leave the competition with their heads held high. How did managing director Marko Pesic say before departure? “We have overperformed in the last two years.”
Pesic had presented a three-year plan, the end of which sees FC Bayern among the top European players. Although the pandemic has extended the time window, the club is still on target. In autumn 2023, a year later, the new hall in the Olympic Park will be ready, which will offer space for 11,500 spectators. Then, as Honorary President Uli Hoeneß recently demanded in an SZ interview, a new era may begin. As is well known, Hoeneß started FC Bayern’s basketball project ten years ago, so the department is still quite young and not comparable to that of FC Barcelona.
The Catalans have more tradition, more money – although the club has an eight-figure mountain of debt and the basketball players don’t finance themselves like in Munich – and the better team. FCB coach Andrea Trinchieri says before the game: “We don’t have a chance.” He said the same thing before game four.