Reformation of the Reformation Or Why I do not care about the BBL Top4

On German Hoops we mainly reported in an objective way about what is going on in the German basketball scene. But usually blogs represent individual opinions and this time I have something to write about that is highly subjective and you might not agree with. It’s all about the BBL Top4 and why I am simply not interested in it since the competition has been reformed. I’m not trying to convince anybody. Guys like Goettingen’s Jason Boone really look forward to this competition as e.g. he never made it to the NCAA Final Four. But just let me explain why I refuse to watch this new Top4 tournament.

Last summer four important large-scale changes happened to German basketball. In my opinion there were two very positive changes in managerial questions and two negative ones concerning the sport itself.

Let’s start with the positive changes:

The 6-year deal with Beko as the league’s main sponsor was a great move. With the help of Murat Didin the BBL finally has a strong partner that pays a nice amount of money to the league and helps to professionalize basketball in Germany.

The other positive thing becomes more obvious for fans every week. German sports network DSF (now called Sport1) signed a 3-year deal with the league and broadcasts the game of the week on free TV (For further information check out the League Facts!). It is very important for the league to be on screen for everybody and not just for the hardcore fans on pay-TV.

So from an administrative perspective the league really made two big steps into the right direction. Unfortunately two questionable decisions in sports terms did not help.

The new ranking system was very confusing at times (check out Strange rankings and early hot-shots). Honoring the losing team with 1 and the winning team with 2 points does not work when games have to be postponed and teams have played a different number of games. This season there were some really odd moments. E.g. Bonn clinched the number 1 spot despite having lost a game or Giessen being in the play-off race without winning a single game! So sometimes the rankings looked as informative as if it was grouped in an alphabetical order.

Luckily the BBL decided to return to the old table-system for the upcoming season. That means the losing team will get 0:2 points and the winning one 2:0.

And then there is the new BBL Cup… Even though it is played in my hometown Frankfurt next week-end (10th and 11th of April) I decided not to attend the Top4. I am not even sure if I will watch it on television, because I don’t quite understand what this is all about and why it is still called a ‘Cup’.

The reformation of the BBL Cup has been something that seemed unavoidable as the old system did not really work out. The league’s decision to move the Top4 to Hamburg (a city without any pro basketball club) turned out to be disastrous as the number of attendance dropped down.

The BBL chose the easiest way and simply eliminated all ProA and ProB clubs from participating in their new cup. And not even all BBL clubs are given the chance to play the Cup anymore. Only the 6 top teams after the first round of the regular season are eligible to participate in the new BBL Cup now.

Unbelievably stupid is the decision to give the team that hosts the new cup a wildcard for the semi-finals. This season the Deutsche Bank Skyliners Frankfurt enter the tournament at the semi-finals stage what enables a club to win a title with just two wins! Besides some boring minor title like the Champions Cup (at the beginning of the season champion faces cup-winner to battle for that cup) I can’t think of any competition in any sports that gives a team an opportunity to capture a title with just two wins.

This simply ruins the value of a title – even more than the questionable new mode.

Taking the cue from competitions like the Spanish Copa Del Rey the Cup loses its status as a competition that stands for itself. To me that ruins the basic idea of a cup. I think not the record of the season should decide your role in the cup. As a competition that stands for itself every team should be given the chance to participate in it. Otherwise it seems questionable what exactly this new cup is all about. Is it a half-time, mid-season championship as you qualify with a top 6 record? But why is the tournament played at the end of the season? Who wants to see some of the Top 6 teams of the mid-season compete against each other just some days before the play-offs get started?

To make it consequential this new cup, that is more of a minor championship after the first round of the regular season, should be played in the middle of the season. And it also is not very logical to make Alba Berlin, the top team of the first round play in Bamberg in the quarterfinals this season. Luka Pavicevic was right when he said that he cannot understand why the top team of the league does not get honored with homecourt advantage. I thought a decent record was all it is about now. So why punish a team that had the best record at that stage?

I’m not a nostalgist, who glorifies the old BBL Cup. A reformation was really necessary due to the fact that for some years the league did not care about this competition. It looked like all the BBL was just interested was the Top4 event, but not the tournament itself.

The old cup suffered reputation with games being played during the week, BBL top clubs joining the tournament too late (just at the final 16 stage) and underdogs being unable to defeat top teams due to the different foreigner restriction. I remember that during the 1999/2000 Top4 the Frankfurt Skyliners were allowed to play with just one import player due to the fact that their opponent Rhöndorf was a team from the second division that played with just one foreigner all season long.

I don’t exactly know when, but at some point this fact was simply ignored. Especially after the restriction of import player was more or less abolished in the first division in 2005 a fair competition in the Cup became simply impossible. How can a ProA or a ProB club that is obliged to play with 2 or 3 germans on the court at any time compete with richer BBL clubs that are allowed to play with an all-american team? This and the fact that top teams like Alba Berlin, Bamberg, Bonn or Oldenburg did not join the competition from the beginning on destroyed all that what makes Germany’s soccer cup competition so damn popular. I think this new Cup system is also not very transparent to people who are not involved into basketball. In Germany the soccer cup is so populat due to the fact that a team like Bayern München might show up in a little village to play against a team from the 4th or 5th league. No one would want to see a closed shop Cup in Soccer and I don’t want to see it in basketball either.

The new cup was justified with the lower number of attendance when ProA teams hosted BBL clubs. But come on, how can you motivate your fans to come to a game during the week when a loss against an all American BBL team is almost set in stone. That and the fact that only teams from the bottom of the BBL table participated at that early stage make those numbers reasonable. And don’t tell me you would not want to see Alba Berlin playing at Breitengüssbach, Langen or Lich… I’m sure that tickets for these games would be sold out!

I am a big supporter of the reformation of the reformation of the Cup!

So, you see I’m not just mourning about the reformation, but I also have some ideas how to make the BBL Cup more interesting.

As mentioned before: If the league does not want to let participate any ProA and ProB clubs the Tournament should be played in January or February like a real mid-season championship. Maybe this competition could switch its place with the All-Star game that could be played at the end of the regular season. I’m not a big fan of this scenario and a name change would be necessary too as this whole mid-season championship has nothing to do with a cup in a traditional sense. But it would be a lot more logical and reasonable than what has happened this season…

What would be my favorite solution for a new cup looks like this:

–> Let all BBL, ProA and ProB teams and the Regionalliga champions participate!

–> In the first round there should be pool of 64 teams (pre-round with ProB teams facing Regionalliga champions and the reigning BBL champion+the cup winner of the last season join in round 2!)

–> Make room for the games on week-ends! With 64 teams there would be 4 rounds before the Top4. That’s 4 week-ends where the regular season games of each league need to be postponed. If one starts with the Cup competition before the regular seasons are underway, there has to be room for just 3 week-ends during the season.

–> Equal chances for every team: Teams from a lower league get home court advantage!

–> Foreigner restriction: Adjusting to the rules the team from the lower league plays. E.g.: When a BBL club faces a ProB team the first division team has to play with three germans on the court at any time!

–> More points: Of course at first sight it sounds impossible to make BBL clubs play with three germans at any time. But if one would give the cup winner 20 instead of 10 points for the Euro Ranking teams were forced to take the competition much more serious.

If the 6-6 rule (6 import players, 6 domestic players) is valid in some years there should not be a big problem with that. Those teams who already work with a youth programm should benefit from this as well. And if the cup winner is awarded with so many points in the Euro Ranking the clubs need to sign german quality players! The reformation of the reformation could also help clubs to chose a path that supports the development of german talents. I’m sure that is something german national team head coach Dirk Bauermann should like to hear!

So as long as the BBL Cup is some closed shop, strange title scenario for privileged teams to participate and win it, I’m not really interested. I really could not care less about the competition if it remains the way it is played this season.

I hope that – just like it happened with the ranking-system – the league is willing to discuss the reformation of the reformation and make room for a fair and transparent BBL Cup.


  1. Finally you are blogging with a blogger’s genuine emotions 😉

    It’s a very important statement. Of course we can agree to disagree about what a reform of the reform should look like, but I mostly agree with your analysis. The league hypes this event like mad, something they don’t even do when there’s playoffs and most of the basketball community – except the fans of the participating teams – simply don’t get the hype.

    The cup’s date interferes with european competitions and lead to a really unfortunate schedule of the league games in the last weeks before the playoffs start. The modus is abitrary as it disregards the standings after the first leg. The timing is bullshit… But the league already said that next years cup will take place in April, again.

    I strongly disagree with your suggestions. A “full” Cup with 48 teams is just impossible. The audiences were tiny in the past, even if small teams had homecourt advantage and you simply can’t find the time for the games. A club successfully playing in an european competition like ALBA Berlin had two games a week in 9 out of 10 weeks since the season started.

    My dream would be a “winter championship”… start with moving the Top Four to late January or early February. And aim at hosting a real FinalEight within some years time.

  2. Could not agree more with you!
    I never really liked the Cup, but this season it is just ridiculous!!!
    I hope Jan Pommer reads some of this and the league will think about a new Cup system.
    I want teams like Gießen, Düsseldorf or Hagen get a real chance to play in a second competition to compensate a bad season and give something back to the fans. The new Cup excludes a majority of the teams and that is just not fair and good for basketball in Germany.

  3. I agree completely with Manuel. The problem of the old cup was, that it has been a bad cop of the famous german soccer cup. But the new cup is an even worth copy of the spanish copa del rey. In my opinion it is possible to realise a full 64 teams cup with only one more weekend spot during the regurlar season. In the preseaison you can play the first two rounds in only one weekend. You need 16 tournaments hosted by lower class teams to reduce the field to 16 teams. The BBL teams are playing their pre saison games all over europe – why not spent one weekend in the province as an invest into the broad effect of the league.

    For the rounds three and four are four one-weekend-tournaments needed. This should be possible, even for the eurocup-teams. At the end of the road is the top four tournament – as a real cup final.

  4. There really is an urgent need for a reformation of the reformation.
    Even as a supporter of one of the top 4 teams I do not really care about the cup. I just hope everyone stays healthy and plays well during the play-offs!!!
    The new cup just lost all connection to the lower class teams and a real tournament. And its value is decreasing as well with this new top 4 event!!!!
    I would not mind if my club wins the new top 4, but I would prefer to make it to the semi-finals of the bbl play-offs a lot more.
    Just hope the team that got a wildcard for hostign the top 4 does not win the cup. As Manuel wrote I just don’t get it how a team can win a title with two wins……

  5. As Gruebler suggests I don’t think a full cup is easy to organize.
    I agree with Manuel that this would be the best solution, but it is difficult to organize all those games even in the preseason.
    In general one thing should be 4 sure at this point: Noone and I mean noone except the teams participating this year likes the idea of the new cup! And hardly any other fans are intersted in this competition!
    Sold out arena in Frankfurt does not mean anything as there is only room for 5000 fans.

    I would really love to see a Final 8 competition in February 2011 with the five top BBL clubs, the ProA and ProB champion of 2010 plus the DBB Cup winner. That would at least make it possible for teams from lower divisions to play in the tournement.

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