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2002 – European Champion (Bologna, 3-5/5)

In 1996 the first step was taken, in 2000 came the confirmation, and in 2002 the greatest proof was given that Panathinaikos was here to stay; that this was a team ready to build an empire of its own. Although most considered PAO to be the underdog of the competition, it reached Bologna all the way to clinching its third European Championship by prevailing on Easter Sunday over the practically home team of Kinder Bologna of head coach Ettore Messina and players featuring Ginóbili, Becirovic, Rigaudeau, Smodis and Jaric.

Panathinaikos’ course had run full circle in the 2001-02 season, since its competition obligations began versus a team from Bologna, Fortitudo (81-70, 79-77). Then followed the games versus CSKA Moscow (85-91, 80-83), Pau Orthez (67-79, 63-67), Buducnost (91-82, 84-72), Krka (82-81, 92-98), Zadar (102-64, 85-81), Real Madrid (70-78, 88-77). In the second round the Group that was formed seemed almost like an…all-Greek Group since it featured Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, ΑΕΚ and Olimpija Ljublijana. The “Greens” found themselves with their backs against the wall. They began with a defeat from Olympiakos (92-75), continued with an away win over Olimpija (85-67), continued with a away victory over ΑΕΚ (66-73) and the home victories over Olympiakos (88-78) and ΑΕΚ (96-92), to finally achieve its qualification to the Final Four by defeating Olimpija Ljublijana by 79-72 in the away game.

Many had been quick to “dismiss” Panathinaikos already from the Semifinal, where it would play Maccabi Tel Aviv, from which it had been defeated in the 2001 SuproLeague Final Four final game in Palais de Bercy. Zeljko Obradovic was impeccable in leading his players, drawing one ace from his sleeve after another and giving Panathinaikos its ticket to the Final Four Final after defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv by 83-75. The “Greens” technical team sleeves seemed to be full of trump cards; they had studied their opponents were and had players determined to win in an arena clearly in favor of their opponents. “PalaMalaguti” was standing by Kinder Bologna, but the Greek team displayed tremendous character and proved it when returning on the court after halftime and putting a lot of soul in their game. Halfway Panathinaikos was down by eight points, but in the locker-room everyone was talking about victory; it was the only thing on their minds. Lazaros Papadopoulos played an important role, and the “Greens” undisputed leaders Dejan Bodiroga and Ibrahim Kutluay were pointing the road toward winning the title. And they did it…all together! The tables were turned in the game, “PalaMalaguti” was suddenly silenced, but at the final buzzer was forced to applaud Panathinaikos lifting its third European trophy, celebrating its third European Championship, and seeing its own Dejan Bodiroga being voted Final Four MVP and member of the All-Euroleague Final Four First Team.

Final Four (Bologna, 3-5/5)


Benetton Treviso-Kinder Bologna 82-90 (41-39)

Benetton Treviso (D’ Antoni): Nicola 3, Edney 19, Pittis, Marconato 5, Bulleri 4, Chikalkin 7, Nachbar 17, Bell 19, Garbajosa 8

Kinder Bologna (Messina): Ginóbili 14, Becirovic 14, Granger, Frosini 4, Andersen 15, Rigaudeau 4, Griffith 13, Smodis 8, Jaric 18

Panathinaikos-Maccabi Tel Aviv 83-75 (44-44)

Panathinaikos (Obradovic): Alvertis11, Kalaitzis 2, Rogers 5, Mulaomerovic 6, Bodiroga 26, Middleton 15, Kutluay 9, Papadopoulos 9, Sánchez

Maccabi Tel Aviv (Blatt): Henefeld, Sharp 3, Huffman 16, Parker 11, Shelef 8, Bernstein 18, Curcic 3, McDonald 11, Besok 5


Kinder Bologna -Panathinaikos 83-89 (48-40)

Kinder Bologna (Messina): Ginóbili 27, Becirovic 4, Granger 10, Frosini, Andersen 3, Rigaudeau 3, Griffith 2, Smodis 23, Jaric 11

Panathinaikos (Obradovic): Alvertis 11, Kalaitzis, Rogers 7, Mulaomerovic 6, Bodiroga 21, Middleton 10, Kutluay 22, Papadopoulos 12, Sánchez