The 2010-11 regular season provided a major shock as CSKA Moscow – champions just two seasons previously – suffered an early elimination. CSKA failed to advance to the Top 16 after finishing bottom of Group D with a 3-7 record – making the 2010-11 season the first and only time CSKA has missed out on the Final Four since 2002. Despite the presence of established big names such as J.R. Holden, Trajan Langdon, Ramunas Siskauskas and Matjaz Smodis, along with future stars Alexey Shved, Nikita Kurbanov and Boban Marjanovic, CSKA shockingly lost six of its first seven games to fall out of contention and ended up losing at least once to each of its fellow group teams Panathinaikos Athens, Union Olimpija Ljubljana, Efes Pilsen Istanbul, Armani Jeans Milan and a Power Electronics Valencia team featuring competition debutant and future CSKA title-winner Nando De Colo. CSKA finished the regular season as the third-lowest scoring team in the competition with just 68.3 points per game and the fall from grace truly marked the end of an era for the Russian giant with long-serving stalwarts Holden, Langdon and Smodis never playing in the competition again. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena, Olympiacos Piraeus and Panathinaikos were the regular season group winners.
Top 16: Panathinaikos, Valencia leave it late
The Top 16 saw defending champion Regal Barcelona shine with a flawless 6-0 record, but other groups had plenty of drama. In Group A, just one win separated the top three teams as Caja Laboral and Panathinaikos both finished 4-2. Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius narrowly missed out on advancing with a 3-3 record, as the top two only secured their playoffs berths with victories in the final round of the Top 16. Valencia also left it late to qualify, with a team-high 15 points from De Colo ousting Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul in a winner-takes-all meeting on the last day of the Top 16. That victory sent the Spanish club into the last eight for the first – and so far only – time in club history.
Road warriors prevail in playoffs
The playoffs provided plenty of surprises as only one of the top-seeded teams – Real Madrid – won its series, with Maccabi, Panathinaikos and Siena all overcoming homecourt advantage to respectively defeat Caja Laboral Vitoria-Gasteiz, Barcelona and Olympiacos and advance to the Final Four. There was an unprecedented set of results in Game 2 of the playoffs, with all four road teams winning. After the home teams all triumphed in the playoffs openers, the series were leveled with the following results: Caja Laboral Vitoria 81-83 Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv; Regal FC Barcelona 71-75 Panathinaikos Athens; Real Madrid 75-81 Power Electronics Valencia; Olympiacos Piraeus 65-82 Montepaschi Siena. Real eventually battled back to win its all-Spanish series with Valencia 3-2, but the other unseeded teams made the most of their Game 2 victories by advancing to the Final Four.
Siena bounces back from Game 1 humiliation
Montepaschi Siena’s success over Olympiacos in their playoffs series was even more notable for the fact that the Italian champion had suffered a humiliating 89-41 loss in the series opener. That game in Piraeus saw several records set as the Reds allowed the fewest points in a half (9) and through three quarters (22). Olympiacos also set a playoff record with 55 rebounds and the largest playoff margin of victory at 48…but still went on to lose the series!
Old and new lead rebounding chart
There was no surprise over the identity of the league’s rebounding king in the 2010-11 season: Mirsad Turkcan of Fenerbahce, who was at the time the century’s top rebounder, led the pack with an average of 7.3 boards per game. It would be the 34-year-old Turkcan’s final full season in the competition: he missed the majority of the following year through injury and played just five more games for Fenerbahce before retiring.
The season’s second-best rebounder, however, was a brand new face to the competition: a 24-year-old American, whose average of 6.9 rebounds per game helped Partizan Belgrade reach the Top 16. His name is James Gist. The EuroLeague debutant followed his impressive debut season in Serbia by joining Turkcan at Fenerbahce and later spending a solitary season with Unicaja Malaga before then moving to Panathinaikos for a long and successful spell.
The year of 3D
The star of the season was undoubtedly Dimitris Diamantidis, who led Panathinaikos to the title by earning the season MVP and Final Four MVP awards as well as topping the league’s assists chart (6.2 apg) and claiming the league’s Best Defender award for a record sixth time. Diamantidis was a model of consistency throughout the campaign, recording double-digit PIRs in 20 of his 22 appearances and surpassing a PIR of 20 on 10 occasions – including both games at the Final Four.
Greens dominate end-of-season awards
Zeljko Obradovic’s title triumph with Panathinaikos was enough to see him named the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year for the first time, and the end-of-season awards were a sea of green as Diamantidis took the league’s Best Defender and MVP honors and was joined by teammate Mike Batiste, Juan Carlos Navarro of Barcelona, Fernando San Emeterio of Caja Laboral and Sofoklis Schortsanitis of Maccabi on the All-Euroleague First Team. The Second Team featured Maccabi’s Jeremy Pargo, Sergio Llull of Real, Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos, Ksistof Lavrinovic of Siena and Dusko Savanovic of Valencia. Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos of Panathinaikos were chosen as Executives of the Year, too.
Rakocevic tops in scoring as Teletovic equals record
The Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner was Igor Rakocevic of Efes Pilsen Istanbul, who took the award for the third time (he also topped the scoring charts in 2007 and 2009) after averaging 17.2 points per game. Second place was taken by Mirza Teletovic of Caja Laboral, who averaged 15.5 points per game and also tied the league record at the time for three-pointers in a single game by making 9 triples in his team’s regular-season victory over Zalgiris Kaunas. In the same game, Marcelinho Huertas tied the Basque team’s assists record with 13.
Mirotic makes his mark
One of the season’s biggest success stories was Real Madrid, which advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1996 to lay the foundations for a decade of success. The Real roster contained several young players who would go on to enjoy outstanding careers, including an exciting backcourt duo of Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez, along with a decisive presence in the paint with Croatian big man Ante Tomic. But arguably the biggest mark was made by a man who turned 20 during the course of the season: Nikola Mirotic. Despite having only played one EuroLeague game before the start of the season, Mirotic quickly became a key man for Los Blancos as he averaged 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 20 appearances, earning the Rising Star Trophy and setting a magnificent career in motion.
Final Four: Panathinaikos parties in Barcelona
The Final Four was staged in Barcelona, with the local team and reigning champion missing out on competing for the title in its own city after suffering a playoff loss against Panathinaikos. And the Greens duly advanced to the main event by downing Montepaschi Siena 77-69 in the semifinal behind 17 points from Nick Calathes and 16 from Mike Batiste. The other semifinal saw Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv cruise past Real Madrid 82-63 in a game that saw Maccabi’s Chuck Eidson set a then-Final Four record with 6 steals. In the championship game, Panathinaikos surged past Maccabi with a 4-16 third-quarter run en route to a fairly comfortable 70-78 victory. Dimitris Diamantidis paced the winners with 16 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds, while Batiste top scored with 18 points.
Obradovic’s final triumph in Green
We could not have known it at the time, but Panathinaikos’s triumph would prove to be the last EuroLeague title for iconic coach Zeljko Obradovic during his time with the Greek giant. Obradovic arrived in Athens in 1999 and won the title in his first season before adding further crowns in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011. When the Serbian legend lifted the trophy aloft in Barcelona it felt as though his glorious reign with Panathinaikos would continue forever, but we now know that would not be the case.