122 Years, 108 Points, 3 Overtimes And Many Stories To Be Remembered For The Fraport Skyliners From December 21st, 2013 In Ulm

Without James Naismith, basketball aficionados would never have witnessed the six NBA titles by Michael Jordan, the dominance of Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics in the 60´s, the sometimes funny and other time distasteful antics of a Dennis Rodman off the court, the intense and most likely greatest basketball rivalry on the court between the guy that supposedly never could Jump Larry Bird and the greatest 6´9 point guard to ever run on the court Magic Johnson, the amazing unpredictable win by Germany over Russia at the 1993 European championships in Munich, Jack Grinnell dropping 137 points in an NCAA game or  being able to read the tell all book by Wilt Chamberlin. These are just some of the interesting and fascinating stories that the game of basketball have given us in the last 122 years as there are a lot more to tell, but by the time all would be told, Lebron James would already be retired with more NBA rings that could support his ten fingers. A few days ago on December 21st, basketball celebrated its 122 years of existence after having been invented by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was only fitting that on this day somewhere in the basketball world that something spectacular would happen that would make this basketball holiday stand so much more in the lime light especially in the small German city of Ulm even if they couldn´t celebrate a win after 55 long, exciting and grueling minutes against the Fraport Skyliners.

When one studies the 14 year history of the Frankfurt Skyliners, one quickly remembers its two only titles with the 2000 cup win that was led by current s:oliver Baskets Wurzburg head coach Stefan Koch and the thrilling 2004 Beko BBL championship where they defeated the Brose Baskets Bamberg in five gut wrenching, finger nail biting games where no team could win at home in the first four games until Frankfurt was able to seal their second title with the win in their own living room. However there have been other very exciting games as of recently in the history of the organization like the win in the first game of the 2006-2007 season as Frankfurt annoyed the debut back in the Beko BBL of ratiopharm Ulm with a buzzer beater from American Eric Chadfield. Who could forget the exciting 2008 quarterfinal playoff series against the Bayer Giants Leverkusen that Frankfurt won with  a thrilling fifth game win on the road as Pascal Roller won the game with free throws and they stopped current Artland Dragons head coach Tyrone Mccoy on the last possession denying him the lay up. Who could forget the game five series loss to the Telekom Baskets Bonn in the 2008 playoffs series where Pascal Roller couldn´t connect on a last second drive to the hoop denying a final meeting with 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin. Skyliner fans have a special spot in their memory bank for the season series with Wurzburg in the 2011-2012 season as American Justin Gray won the game in Frankfurt on a buzzer beater and three months later, Frankfurt was able to sweep the season series with possibly one of the hardest fought games in their history as they won the famous basketball battle of Wurzburg 56-51 as the word defense and toughness was given a new meaning as players must of lost a few pounds after extra fitness that each player practiced on the floor in that game. Another unforgettable game was the 104-102 win at home against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen in double overtime in 2007. A new date and game has been added to the list of these memorable games with the 108-102 triple overtime victory in Ulm on December 21st, 2013.

Every weekend there are always thousands of professional games around the globe and when one goes to a game one is never expecting or contemplating that one will see a game to remember as the first thought is usually about how a team will win. I was in the Ulm arena hoping that the Fraport Skyliners would seek revenge on their loss last season in their first game in the new Ulm arena and that they wouldn´t be too rusty after the 10 day break between games and their last high class win at home against the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig. An hour before the game, I was occupied with my own thoughts when Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert walked by me in the Ulm arena catacombs and said “nice jacket” and I wished him good luck. It only dawned on me a few seconds later that he liked my fleece jacket that has the word Canada on it. Herbert is Canadian and that my trusty fleece jacket had anything to do with the amazing win and the solid game by Canadian Andrew Rautins that hit a big shot in the third overtime and finished with 24 points, I wasn´t going to take even 1% of credit that my apparel had even the slightest to do with the historical win that the Fraport Skyliners were able to accomplish that evening, but maybe it had been a good omen that I had worn it.

As a basketball reporter one often has enough to remember from 40 minutes of basketball play, but after 55 minutes and three overtimes, the big plays,smiles, sneers, swear words, shots, passes, rebounds and dunks accumulate like the gifts of a boy on Christmas morning after a half hour of having opened everything. On top of everything that happened, one had one interesting side story to the game as ex NBA player Andrew Rautins was meeting American Matt Howard for the first time since March 25th, 2010. That is a day that Rautins never forgot as it was his last college game as Butler(NCAA) and Howard as the fifth ranked kicked out number one ranked Syracuse(NCAA) out of the NCAA tournament. Rautins did score more points with 15 to the nine points by Howard, but Butler went on to the NCAA final while Rautins was finished as a college player and had NBA draft next on his mind. There was also the fascinating duel of Top German point guard Per Guenther against the future top point guard Konstantin Klein. Klein and Frankfurt did  a great jon keeping Guenther out of the game in the first half not letting ratiopharm Ulm get a big lead. Guenther did hit big shots in the second half after American Cameron Long told him to step it up, but all in all Klein did a solid job against the best German point guard at the moment.

Players witness big plays in each game, but surely remember those plays more in meaningful games than in lesser meaning games. In the 108-102 overtime win, there were many great plays that need to be retold one more time. In the first half, the Fraport Skyliners were perfect at the free throw line and at times it was double the fun to see a Fraport Skyliner at the free throw line just to see if the perfect shooting streak could be held. Aziz Ndiaye had fans scratching their heads in disbelief a few times with his inability to put his size to best use as he actually was rejected, but made a good second effort laying the ball home.  German allstar Danilo Bathel also had a few lay ins where he perfected the pump fake which had Daniel Theis and Trent Plaisted flying up up and away. The only weird thing was that Barthel opted to hold back on his thunderous dunks and elected the more sure route with the put back. That there were 210 points scored in 55 minutes can be expected as well as the strength of both teams waning away on defense to keep up the intensity, but fans did see big defensive plays like back to back Skyliner blocks as Ramon Galloway rejected Per Guenther and Azizi Ndiaye swatted away a Daniel Thies shot in the third quarter. Jared Dubois got the Frankfurt bench jumping for joy with his quarter ending buzzer beater with a soft floater. In the fourth quarter there was a pretty Dubois lay in keeping the defense guessing as he faked a pass to Ndiaye on the baseline with a head fake and laying the ball in or Edgar Sosa giving Frankfurt nightmares with hot shooting. Barthel who isn´t known for making big time under pressure shots got his team into the overtime with a last second baby hook shot. Another  play that had many fans in question was when the 213cm Senegalnator Aziz Ndiaye went  up to stuff a routine ball which is the equivalent of a Zinedine Zidane making a run of the mill penalty kick, but the big man missed the dunk, had luck that he was alone scooped up the ball and laid it in. It looked like Frankfurt had the game wrapped up in the first overtime after a huge Klein three pointer, but Cameron Long showed nerves of steel scoring on a drive to the hoop and sending the game into a second overtime. In the second overtime the role were reversed as ratipharm Ulm suddenly had the better chance to go into Christmas break with a win as Hess dropped an open three pointer as ratiopharm Ulm led 93-89 with less than a minute to play, but Rautins made a giant three pointer showing that quick release of a cowboy that is fighting for his life in a shootout. Galloway made one free throw to tie the game at 93, but at the same time missed the only free throw of the game for Frankfurt who shot 32 of 33 on the night and made 25 in a row. Hess will probably be the only one to remember his last shot of the second overtime as he let go a bomb from the corner that got trapped between rim and back board which is something that happens only then when one doesn´t want it to. The most spectacular play of the game was the poster dunk of Ramon Galloway over 2008 NBA Draft pick Trent Plaisted which still had teammates oohing and awwwing after the game. The Fraport Skyliners made the big shots with a Voigtmann mid distance shot and Rautins making another in your face three pointer which sealed the game for Frankfurt and gave basketball fans another memory to last a very long time. Not only did Frankfurt make the big shots, little plays, mental strength and play a bit more clever, but they also had a bit more luck than ratiopharm Ulm, but that is a part of the game.

After the win, it was in some degree a surprise how much strength and energy the players still had to enjoy the moment instead of just disappearing into the locker room and demanding an oxygen mask, but then again these aren´t 300 pound football players trying to survive the 110 heat of the Phoenix desert, but very well- conditioned athletes that are savoring a historical moment in the Skyliner history. Three overtimes was a like a half marathon for Andrew Rautins in comparison to his six overtime game win in 2009 against UConn 129-119 where he faced future NBA players Kemba Walker and Jeff Adrien and teammate ex NBA player Johnny Flynn led all scorers with 34 points and Rautins added 20 points with six three pointers. Jacob Burtschi joked after the big win that he remembered watching the 6 overtime game win of Syracuse and was just tired watching it. Since it was the last game before Christmas, some players might have been already a bit in Santa Claus mode in their thoughts, feasting on delectable home cooking and opening presents to really understand what had just happened. This is the type of a game that can make a team take a huge step mentally and help them make strides in the standings in the next months with continued stellar all around play. Frankfurt isn´t the most talented, but Gordon Herbert has built a solid team chemistry that grew with this victory. One thing is for sure that guys like Andrew Rautins and Jacob Burtschi will have many stories to tell about this win during seconds of Turkey and mashed potatoes, while the kids at the Christmas dinner table will have those basketball tales from Ulm go through one ear and out the next as they observe two time NBA champion Lebron James tear apart the hapless Kobe Bryant less Los Angeles Lakers in the Christmas day NBA game.

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