After the last shot of ex Fraport Skyliner point guard Justin Cobbs fell short in the 2016 Beko BBL cup final, the Alba Berlin players on the floor were dancing and going wild as any guys would after just winning a title, while a dejected FC Bayern Munich lot were scrambling back to the bench and in total shock after not being rewarded for their courageous 7-0 run in the last minute and a half being beaten by a Dragan Milosavljevic floater that fought its way through the tense Audi Dome air with authority. Way up in the arena stands were the faithful Alba Berlin fans seated as a big sea of yellow was present and as excited as if they had just won the first club title, even though it was the third cup victory in the last four years. While on the other side closer to the basketball floor in the first row, German ski jumping legend Sven Hannawald was taking in the atmosphere, but not letting any emotion get in the way as you wouldn´t have been able to tell if he was a real hard core basketball fan or not while about 20 feet to his right in the third row the contrast in emotion was about as opposite as the effectiveness of a Steph Curry three pointer and that of a Shaq. In the third row, one could observe legendary FC Bayern Munich team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller Wohlfarth watching the cup presentation like any of the other many ceremonies he has witnessed in his almost 40 years of service to Germany´s most famous sport club while FC Bayern Munich football club president Uli Hoeness was sitting two places from the doctor and had a very sullen expression on his face as if he was attending the funeral of his best friend. Even his most powerful thoughts about FC Bayern Munich football were taking the back seat momentarily to the bitter basketball loss. But that is expected considering all the dedication and work the German has done putting FC Bayern Munich basketball on the map as well as his natural love for the game and his club. Even 20 minutes after the loss, members of the FC Bayern Munich organization like youth coordinator Volker Stix were sitting dejected looking straight ahead as if they had just seen a nasty ghost as this loss will take a long while to digest. These were some of the stories that were told minutes after Alba Berlin had won their eighth cup title and 19th overall in their illustrious club history. All in all, the 2016 Beko BBL cup weekend was another great event that was sparked by exciting games, dripping water and Alex King´s smile.
The 2016 Beko BBL cup weekend started on Saturday with the first semi-final between current Beko BBL champion Brose Baskets Bamberg against 2014 Beko BBL champion FC Bayern Munich. Neither team allowed the other to get away as it was a very close exciting game for 40 minutes. The Brose Baskets Bamberg kept their nose ahead at the end of each quarter until the fourth quarter when FC Bayern Munich finally would step up their intensity which was too much for the bunch from head coach Andrea Trinchieri. Before FC Bayern Munich took control, it was Greek national player Nikolaos Zizis and ex NBA player Darius Miller nailing three pointers for the 69-64 advantage. After Svetislav Pesic took a time out, his team reacted and took over as it was ex Alba Berlin forward Deon Thompson playing monster under the basket, Bryce Taylor showing his class from down town and athleticism under the hoop with a thunderous dunk and ex Fraport Skyliner Justin Cobbs controlling the game with his timely passes as his 6 assists were key for the team win. It hasn´t been the easiest of seasons for FC Bayern Munich as they haven´t dominated the Beko BBL as everyone expected and fell out of Euroleague play early, but when it counted, they were able to forcefully reach the final with their overpowering style and support from their fans. The Brose Baskets Bamberg might have been the slight favorite despite the road game, but went home very disappointed and now can concentrate further on the Euroleague and Beko BBL playoffs in May.
In the second semi-final, it pitted the Alba Berlin powerhouse against the little darlings of the Beko BBL Fraport Skyliners. Both teams had had great battles over the years in the playoffs and last tangled in cup action in 2009 in Hamburg where Frankfurt went home as the losers. The Fraport Skyliners went into the game with their loss to Alba Berlin earlier in the season as uncharacteristically gave up 95 points on their minds. Despite having key players like Johannes Voigtmann, John Little, Mike Morrison and Aaron Doornekamp not completely healthy, the club gave an amazing spirited effort and were two plays from a win. Alba Berlin had a huge second quarter, but that didn´t hamper the Fraport Skyliners as they fought back and never allowed Alba Berlin to fully run away with the game. In crunch time in the fourth, it was the battle of the Jordan´s, but it was Jordan of Alba Berlin getting the last laugh. With 12 seconds remaining, it was the other Jordan Theodore nailing a clutch trey to knot the game at 76-76. However with 1,1 seconds remaining it was Jordan Taylor that dropped another three from the top of the key giving Alba Berlin the 79-76 lead. With 1,1 seconds to play, Frankfurt got Theodore the ball and he dribbled once to his left while being covered, but still unleashed a shot, but it feel short dashing their dreams of keeping their streak alive of a possible third club title. “All I needed was one more second on the clock and I believe I would of made it”, said a frustrated Jordan Theodore. “One could always say there was some luck involved, but both Jordan´s showed great presentations. It was amazing how Jordan Taylor hit those big shots after being out so long. He was amazing in various ways”, added Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic.
On Sunday, there were two more games on the slate with the game for third place between the Brose Baskets Bamberg and Fraport Skyliners at 12.00 and the final between FC Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin at 2.45. Usually the game for third place is always a quiet affair except for the fans of the two losing teams watching as everyone else is usually still getting sleep or hoping to get in some sightseeing. However this Sunday, the floor stayed empty at 12.01 except for some unwanted water and faithful crew trying to get everything in order not to have a total basketball washout. As I arrived into the Audi Dome at 11.00AM all was peaceful and the press room was almost empty, a very rare sight during this weekend. As I wanted to enter the arena at 11.20 to get my first feel of championship Sunday, I was denied entrance and as I asked what was wrong, the steward just stood stoic and that gave me endless time to ponder what could be up. The most bizarre ideas were racing through my mind, but I didn´t want to go totally crazy with my thoughts. At 11.30 came the first rumor in the press room that the game for third place would be cancelled and that it might be difficult of having the final played. As more information was piling in, the Beko BBL were preparing a quick press release. They informed everyone that there had been a water leakage in the Audi Dome on account of a damaged pump in the heating system which caused water to drip from the ceiling area. The game for third place was officially cancelled. Both Bamberg and Frankfurt were crowned co third place winners and the arena crew did their best to get the court in full working order. Soon after, it was announced that the final would be able to be played at 2:45. Both the Brose Baskets Bamberg and Fraport Skyliners didn´t waste any time leaving the grounds back to back at 12.10 with their buses. Before they departed fans could have a chat and say farewell before both were back on their way home. With some time on my hands, I had a nice conversation with ex Spanish national player Carlos Jimenez who was in attendance and had played 19 years in the ACB in Spain with two teams Asefa Estudiantes Madrid and Unicaja Malaga and won the Gold at the 2006 World Championships and silver at the 2007 European championships and 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. I forgot to ask him though who it was more enjoyable to play with in the national team Juan Carlos Navarro or Ricky Rubio.
With the final getting closer and closer, it seemed like the atmosphere in the Audi Dome had risen with the cancelation of the game for third place. Basketball fans had paid for four games, but were only getting to see three and now seemed to be giving extra energy in the noise department. The majority of the Fraport Skyliner fans stayed to cheer on Alba Berlin as there has always been a good fan relationship over the years despite the many battles, the fans understand each other well. On the other hand, there seemed less Brose Baskets Bamberg fans in their fan block. After two extremely entertaining and exciting games, fans weren´t disappointed in the final as they got a tough defensive battle with two head coaches Sasa Obradovic and Svetislav Pesic going head to head as if it was their last game. After a hard fought first quarter where Alba Berlin led 13-11, FC Bayern Munich took control in the second quarter going into the break with the 34-25 advantage as they had gotten heavy support from Anton Gavel and Bryce Taylor and cleaned up the paint with the 15-4 points in the paint advantage while Alba Berlin could thank Bosnian work horse Elmedin Kikanovic that they were still somewhat in the game as he had contributed 12 points. In the third quarter, Alba Berlin got back into the game with some hot shooting from Jordan Taylor to knot the game at 43-43. Both teams saved their best for last as in the last three minutes, they kept the fans on the edge of their seats as the excitement was breathtaking. In the first seven minutes , there were four lead changes as no team could lead by more than five points. In crunch time, both teams buckled down to give their last push for the hardware. With 1.35 minutes to play, Alba Berlin led 65-58 courtesy of a 5-0 run with a Jordan Taylor lay up and three pointer from Dragan Milosavljevic. Alba Berlin seemed to have the momentum and clock on their side, but with 1.35 minutes to play is like a lifetime in basketball and FC Bayern Munich didn´t lay down and die, but made a brilliant comeback tying the game at 65-65 as Anton Gavel made a lay up, Deon Thompson free throws and Dusko Savanovic an amazing step back three pointer as time was low on the shot clock and Justin Cobbs fed him the ball for the much needed shot. With less than 30 seconds to play, Alba Berlin had possession and had problems in their offensive set as no one had the guts to take the shot until Dragan Milosavljevic opted for a sneaky floater that rolled in. FC Bayern Munich had one last chance with seven seconds to play, but Justin Cobbs took a contested shot that fell short of the rim giving Alba Berlin the 67-65 victory and Beko BBL bragging rights until May 2016 when the playoffs start. “This was my first professional title. It was one of those games that went back and forth. We blew a seven point lead, but still had the energy to throw the last punch. On the last shot, we have 3-4 guys that always want to take that last shot. Will Cherry thought that he had a good match up, but Dragan Milosavljevic took the last shot”, smiled Jordan Taylor. “Elmedin Kikanovic(19 points)carried the team in the first half, Jordan Taylor(18 points) in the second half and Dragan Milosavljevic made the magical shot.
In the post title celebrations, it was Alba Berlin captain Alex King that was whopping it up as if he had just won his first title. It actually had been his fourth professional title after winning his first as a 19 year old with the Opel Skyliners in 2004. He came to Alba Berlin in 2013 and won a cup in 2014 and Super Cup in 2015. King has always been a guy that comes over as a genuine and likeable guy with his attitude, but his celebrating and wider smile than ever was more than noticeable this time. It had been a big weekend for the German as he first helped his team defeat his ex team Fraport Skyliners. He started his career in Frankfurt and almost gave up after a tough time there before Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Michael Koch saved his career which took him there, Wurzburg and now Alba Berlin and the rest is history. His second highlight of the weekend was beating his hometown team FC Bayern Munich in their living room. His massive smile while hosting the cup trophy and roaring of his teammates showed that the 31 German was in another place far from any adversity that he had ever experienced before coming to Alba Berlin. Another massive highlight was the postgame interview by Sport Eagle TV founder Salman Mitha with Alba Berlin guards Jordan Taylor and Will Cherry. With the Audi Dome music roaring in the back-round, Mitha spontaneously decided to whip up an entertaining dance that the two Alba Berlin Americans thankfully accepted and joined in as their groove was intact and the only thing missing was having Beyonce stroll to them and jazz it up with her femininity(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlJI4s2Ej2U). FC Bayern Munich seemed to sneak out the back door while Alba Berlin savored every moment in Munich until their flight back to Berlin Tegel where they arrived at 21:50 with more fans waiting. All in all, it was a successful cup weekend. Fans saw a well-organized event with high class games that went down to the wire and an atmosphere that sold the professional game of basketball very well in Germany. The only negative aspect was the dripping water that caused the game for third place to be cancelled. No one should point a finger at FC Bayern Munich. This could of happened in any other arena even if the Audi Dome isn´t the newest as it was built in the early 70´s and can´t be compared to the newer state of the art arena´s in Berlin, Bonn or Ulm. The question at the end of championship day was, are a Taylor, Milosavljevic and Cherry as eager to sleep with the cup trophy in the first night as they are taking the last shot in every game? Only Alex King knows as one can ask him if any one tried taking the cup trophy from him in that first night back in Berlin? King might have had the greatest smile of any Alba Berlin player on that title night and be the nicest guy, but there is no way that anyone except him had the trophy the first night.