AEK’s most Memorable Nights in European Basketball
Following Sunday’s triumph over AS Monaco in the Final of the FIBA Basketball Champions League, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris reviews AEK’s most memorable moments in European basketball.
Watch LIVE from AGONAsport the Greek Cup Final between AEK & PAOK on Saturday, May 12th.
A 100-94 win over Monaco handed AEK its first-ever Basketball Champions League title and third European trophy in club history. Although the nights the Vasilissa hoisted a trophy are the most memorable, they are not, however, the only notable moments in AEK’s rich European history.
6. Nikos Zisis’ buzzer beater against Efes Pilsen (2004/2005)
With his side trailing 69-67 in the dying seconds of a home game against Turkish side Efes Pilsen, Nikos Zisis pulled-off one of the most incredible shots in EuroLeague history.
A quick pass from Nikos Chatzis found Zisis rushing into the offensive zone with just four seconds left on the clock at the Galatsi Olympic Hall. Zisis raced to the left edge of the three-point line only to slip as he tried to gather his feet for a shot. Remarkably, Zisis recovered from his fall and quickly ensured he was not touching the three-point line before heaving a shot at the basket.
As judged by the pandemonium inside the arena, Zisis made the shot to give AEK a much-needed win over the Aegean rivals in Top 16 round action in the EuroLeague – unfortunately for the Athenians they would later be eliminated at this stage due to a weaker points-differential compared to Efes and group winners Benetton Treviso.
5. Unlikely run sees AEK reach the EuroLeague semi-finals (2000/2001)
In the inaugural season of the EuroLeague under the authority of the newly formed EuroLeague Basketball Company, AEK pulled-off an unlikely run to the semi-finals of the competition.
After a hard-fought group stage that saw AEK finish second in Group B with an 8-2 record, AEK pulled-off back-to-back upsets in the knockout rounds by dispatching Zalgiris Kaunas (defending FIBA EuroLeague Champions), and heavily favored Benetton Treviso to reach the semi-finals of the competition proper.
A tough matchup with Tau Ceramica awaited AEK in the semi-finals, and while the Vasilissa had twice beaten the Spanish side in the group stage, it was the Spaniards who would have the last laugh with a 3-0 series sweep.
4. Cinderella run to the FIBA EuroLeague Final (1997/1998)
Fresh off a second-place finish in the Greek top flight from the season before, AEK entered the 1997/1998 edition of the FIBA EuroLeague as a potential dark horse.
The Athenians didn’t disappoint. Finishing in first place in their group in the first round, AEK followed that up with another first-place finish in the second group stage to book a spot in the competition’s Top 16.
Back-to-back 2-0 series wins over Croatia’s KK Split and Germany’s Alba Berlin sent AEK to their first FIBA EuroLeague Final Four since 1966.
Meeting long-time Italian foes Benetton Treviso in the semi-finals at Barcelona’s Paul Sant Jordi, AEK carved out a 69-66 win over their Adriatic rivals to book a spot in their first European Final since the FIBA Saporta Cup Final in 1968.
Clashing with another Italian side, Kinder Bologna, in the Final, the clock would strike midnight on AEK’s cinderella run as the Athenians were defeated 58-44 in the Final.
3. A second dose of glory in the FIBA Saporta Cup (1999-2000)
Two years after their heartbreak in Barcelona, AEK returned to another European Final at the start of the new millennium.
Having entered the second-tier competition known as the FIBA Saporta Cup, AEK got their sweet revenge over Kinder Bologna in the Final – two years after losing to the Italian side in the FIBA EuroLeague Final.
AEK cruised to a 9-1 record in the group stage before comfortably advancing past KD Hopsi Polzela in the Round of 32 (154-95 on aggregate) and Tau Ceramica in the Round of 16 (156-132 on aggregate).
A much tougher matchup against domestic rivals Iraklis saw AEK squeak past the Thessaloniki outfit with an eight-point aggregate win before booking a spot in the Final with a two-legged defeat of Croatia’s Zadar in the semi-finals.
In the neutral confines of the CIG de Malley in Lausanne, AEK clashed with Adriatic rivals Kinder Bologna in the antepenultimate version of the FIBA Saporta Cup. A hard-fought 83-76 win, powered by Nikos Chatzis’ 16 points on the night, saw AEK hoist the trophy 32 years after their first triumph in the competition.
2. Unexpected glory in the Basketball Champions League (2017/2018)
After a dismal start to play in both the Greek Basket League and the Basketball Champions League, AEK managed to pull-off an impressive comeback that saw the club claim their third European title in club history.
A poor start to the season on both front ultimately came costly for Sotiris Manolopoulos, who was replaced by current head coach Dragan Sakota at the AEK helm.
The coaching change seemed to help AEK players believe in their mission of conquering European and after defying the odds to reach the knockout round as the third-placed team in Group C, AEK went on to pull-off thrilling aggregate defeats of CEZ Nymburk and SIG Strasbourg in the round of 16 and quarterfinals respectively.
The drama continued as AEK squeaked out a 77-75 win over UCAM Murcia in the semi-finals on home court before doing one better and beating AS Monaco in the Final to capture their third European silverware – and second European trophy won on a Greek court.
1. The Vasilissa arrives on the European stage (1967/1968)
All trophies are special, but AEK fans will tell you that the triumph their beloved club pulled-off in the 1967/1968 edition of the FIBA Saporta Cup is the single-most important moment in the club’s history – and even Greek basketball history.
After finishing third in the 1966 FIBA European Champions Cup, AEK finally tasted European glory in front of their home crowd in 1968 as a run that included aggregate defeats over Spain’s Kas Victoria and Belgian side Royal IV set-up a semi-final date with reigning champions Ignis Varese.
After a 78-60 blowout loss in Italy in the first leg, AEK returned to Athens and pulled-off a miraculous 72-52 win to secure progress to the Final on the heels of a gut-wrenching 132-130 aggregate win.
Meeting heavily-favored Salvia Pragua in the Final, AEK used the support of the home crowd at Kalimarmaro to shock the continent with an 89-82 win over the Czechoslovakians.
The triumph marked the first time not only AEK won a European title, but the first time a Greek club had won European honors.
The win was further satisfying for AEK after it was Salvia Prague who cost the Athenians a trip to the Final of the 1966 FIBA European Champions Cup.