One unfortunately doesn´t see a lot of basketball books being released in Germany, but when one does, basketball fans grab the opportunity and get it. Ofcourse over the years there have been some informative books about Dirk Nowitzki as well as other gems like the fascinating book Backspin by new Basketball Lowen Braunschweig head coach Pete Strobl. Recently a series of books have been popping up in basketball Germany concerning the easyCredit BBL teams. 111 reasons to love your team. Clubs like FC Bayern Munich, Brose Bamberg and medi Bayreuth have released books concerning their franchise history and in September the next book will be released concerning the interesting 20 year history of the Fraport Skyliners. Of ourse cult club Alba Berlin also came out with an amazing book written by journalist and team expert Benjamin Moser. germanhoops.com sat down with Moser and talked about his book, his love for Alba Berlin and the 2019 BBL finals.
Benjamin thanks for talking to germanhoops.com For all those that don´t know about you could you please talk a little about what you have done in the German basketball world.
I started playing basketball as a kid in Berlin after Germany won its first and only international title at the euro ’93 . There has been a strong basketball movement after Barcelona 92, the Euro 93 and the rise of Streetball. Playing for local clubs in Berlin on a competitive level as a youth player I faced many players that made it to the pros and to international honor, like Mithat Demirel, Misan Haldin or Jan Jagla. At the time while I played there was no JBBL or NBBL and it was hard for me to adapt to men´s basketball. I played one season in Bavaria at VSC Donauwörth and afterwards I never played on a competitive base regularly again. Since I was looking for an opportunity to stay connected to my beloved game I did a internship at a local newspaper and helped establish a blog about ALBA Berlin. At alba-inside.org you will find everything you need to know about ALBA Berlin.
You recently wrote a book concerning the history of Alba Berlin. Talk a little about how it came about and how challenging it was gathering information about a club so rich in history.
Before I got the offer to write a book about ALBA Berlin I did an internship at the sports editorial of a local newspaper. So I was able to attend training sessions, games and press conferences and of course I could interview players. It was a really cool experience interviewing Bryce Taylor or Derek Allen and I caught interest in blogging about ALBA Berlin. So me and my friend Marvin founded alba-inside. Later we added Roy W. to the team who turned out to be a mastermind at blogging and he runs the page today as a true ALBA Berlin Expert.
By recommendation a literacy agent contacted me and told me about the possibility of writing a book about ALBA Berlin. And after some time, I said yes. It wasn’t that easy to find every information I wanted to have because a lot of ALBA Berlin Moments happened before the age of the internet and streaming services. So I had to search the archives of our local newspapers and very quick you would notice how media changed since the 1990’s. When ALBA Berlin played in the FIBA Euroleague newspapers would write about the game the next day or they would just publish the result. So sometimes I had to lower my expectations and try to gather information from multiple sources. A little bit sad to see was that nearly no information about ALBA Berlins predecessor DTV Charlottenburg is available online. I tried my best to still gather some information about the club as well.
Other teams in the easyCredit BBL have released books about their history like FC Bayern Munich, Brose Bamberg and medi Bayreuth. In a few months the Fraport Skyliners will do the same. Do you feel like this project will continue and a majority of the other BBL clubs will follow and release books?
I think it’s important that the history of basketball in Germany is told. I also believe it’s a great opportunity for fans to own a book about their club. It’s anther step forward to establish basketball as a sport in Germany besides football. On the other hand I believe it’s still a small market and besides the few German heavyweights in basketball it might be hard to gain interest for books about smaller clubs. But in the end it’s the decision of the publisher if they believe further books are worth a deal.
Your obviously an expert about Alba Berlin. They have reached the 2019 BBL final. They haven´t faired so well in the last few finals. Do you think that there is a curse on Alba Berlin?
At the first looks it seems that there is a final´s curse on our colors but I believe in a different approach. To really understand the situation you have to go back to the season 2016/17 before Coach Aito arrived. ALBA Berlin were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second time in two years after finishing the regular season in 6th place also for the second time. The team had not been to a final since 2014. Since Ojeda took over as the director of sports and the addition of Aito the club took a huge step towards national and international relevance again. Financially the club wasn’t able to compete with Bamberg or Munich for some time and the supporters are thankful for what has happened in the last two years. Despite the Cup Final against Bamberg, ALBA Berlin faced strong competition in Munich (Cup Final 2018/ League Final 2018) and Valenica (Eurocup 2019) and was never the favorite to win the titles. It’s a step by step approach to win a national or international title again and it might not happen. The supporters are very aware of that. ALBA Berlins task is to develop talent, which they are doing very well in recent years, besides acquiring veteran imports, like Luke Sikma or Peyton Siva. Next season the club is back on Europe’s biggest stage, the Euroleague, and again we’ll have to see how ALBA Berlin can built a balanced squad with the chance to compete for a title, which doesn´t mean they will ever be the favorite to do so, playing in the same league as Munich. So I don’t think we are cursed, I think we couldn’t overcome the financial reality in the recent series.
What is your summary of the Alba Berlin season leading up to the finals? They played a great Eurocup season, but fell short and didn´t win the cup. If they lose another final to FC Bayern Munich, will this be classified as a lost season?
It has been a great season so far. We’re able to witness some of the best basketball being playing in Europe. ALBA Berlins Basketball is a display of team sport and no matter the final outcome of the series it will be remembered as a great season. Sure, it wasn’t great losing the cup final in Bamberg but that will be forgotten by the end of the season, if it’s not already. A great Eurocup campaign with a final appearance which is way harder to do than to reach the German cup final will survive in the memories of the supporters and perhaps ALBA Berlin will be kings of Germany at the end of the season again. If not, so what!? You can wish to win against Bayern Munich but you can’t expect it and the team secured a starting spot for the Euroleague next season. So it won’t be considered as a losing season. And remember Luke Sikma just signed a 4-Year-Contract extension. So maybe this season is just the beginning of something special.
What kind of series can we await? Alba Berlin has a stronger roster than last season and FC Bayern Munich have improved their offense as well. Is this a series that will go 5 games?
I guess we saw it in the first game that ALBA Berlin is fully capable of winning the series against Bayern Munich who still should be considered as the heavy favorites to lift the trophy. With the back against the wall in Game 2 ALBA Berlin needs to focus on maintaining their pace, to execute their early offense and to improve at the free throw Line. For ALBA Berlin it was the right thing to do not to focus on the officiating after Game 1 and to move on. I expect a clean fought Game 2 and an ALBA Berlin win this time. Then everything is possible despite ALBA Berlin never won a playoff series against Bayern Munich and has to win at least one game on the road.
I think that Luka Sikma could be the X-factor. He was a no show in the 2018 BBL final and didn´t have a good Eurocup final. How confident are you that Sikma will have a good series?
As far as being a dominant scorer against Bayern Munich Luke Sikma has a hard time as he needs to find ways to get past Barthel who’s physicality he hardly matches. On the other hand he is still the head of the team even if he’s not scoring 20 points. If ALBA manages to get open looks for Luke Sikma and he gets going from outside, I agree he could be the X-factor. I believe Sikma will play a solid series but I believe the spotlight will be on Peyton Siva. Siva is way harder to defend for Munich then preventing Sikma to score and Munich´s guard struggle to match Sivas athleticism.
Talk about the development of ex NBA player Peyton Siva. He really has fought against injuries in his three years, but his game seems to be getting better. How have you seen his get better this season?
Peyton Siva is the key player on ALBA Berlins Squad, at least one of the two key players. Luke Sikma won the MVP last year while Siva battling injuries but ALBA Berlin needs both of them to perform to win close games.
While Sikma is the Head of the team, Siva is the Heart and Soul of ALBA Berlin. You could argue who’s the boss on the squad but they get along pretty well. Siva played a wonderful Eurocup Season and really established himself as a threat from outside while also being able to attack the basket at will. Siva has the ability to switch between being a field general and true Point Guard and taking over a game as a shooter himself. You could see these qualities in Game 1 of the Finals. Sometimes one will say he has to control his temper on defense to not getting into foul trouble. On the other hand Siva can be a clutch player on the defensive side of the ball which sometimes comes with the risk of committing a foul. One thing is for sure, he’s not the one to back down.
The only thing stopping him from being ready for the next level maybe his size. I hope he returns to ALBA Berlin for another season or on a long-term deal like Luke Sikma but I wouldn’t be surprised if Siva returns to the big League or a European Heavyweight in the Euroleague. Everything else will be beyond his level.
What is your prediction for the 2019 BBL finals and how will Alba Berlin get by FC Bayern Munich?
I strongly believe Bayern Munich is the heavy favorite, as I said before, but I could see a change of momentum after Game 2 and ALBA Berlin winning the series in 5 Games. How this could be done? ALBA needs to stay out of foul trouble. You could see the difference in ALBAs game in Munich with Nnoko and Siva getting in foul trouble. Nnoko is a force under the rim and Bayern needs to work hard on the glass to keep him from rebounding. As long as Nnoko can stay on the field he is a huge challenge for Munich´s big men. Also ALBA Berlin needs to keep its pace on offense. Locked On Set play possessions ALBA can hardly win against a physical Munich team. Also if Sikma starts to find ways to score on Barthel it can decide the series but I don’t have great hope this will happen.
Please list your top three favorite Alba Berlin moments from your book?
Every Alba Fan remembers or heard about the game against Olympiakos Piräus in 1996 at the Max-Schmelling-Halle. I was lucky to be there and witness history. ALBA Berlin defeated the European Heavyweight in the very last seconds of the game and turned the place into a mad house. One of the greatest games I have ever seen live.
While I wrote the book I realized how good Henrik Rödl has been as a player. This guy had success at every stage of his career beginning with his high school days in North Carolina. I tried to cover his career and I think it’s a interesting read especially for the younger fans getting to know the legend a bit.
Besides other great ALBA Berlin Moments, like defeating a great Bologna Team with Dominique Wilkins or winning the Korac Cup in 1995, I decided to tell the readers about DTV Charlottenburg, the predecessor of ALBA Berlin. It was important to me that the story was told how the great history of ALBA Berlin really started.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Actually at the moment I prefer to watch shows on Netflix so it’s the second season of “The Rain”
Thanks Benjamin for the chat.