Year one - quarterfinals. Year two - semifinals. The mission for year three could only be the BBL finals, and the Pesic family worked hard to make that happen. Only four non-youth players stayed (Robin Benzing, Demond Greene, Steffen Hamann, Chevon Troutman), while all others were replaced for various reasons. Here's a look at the ins and outs of the summer.
- Yotam Halperin
- Jared Homan
- Jan Jagla
- Alex Nadjfeji
- Bogdan Radosavljevic
- Tyrese Rice
- Lawrence Roberts
- Brandon Thomas
- John Bryant
- Malcolm Delaney
- Nihad Djedovic
- Yassin Idbihi
- Boris Savovic
- Heiko Schaffartzik
- Lucca Staiger
- Bryce Taylor
- Deon Thompson
Some guys weren't offered the money they had hoped for, like top scorer Tyrese Rice who decided to join Maccabi Tel Aviv. Others were disappointed (Halperin!) or just weird and frustrating (Homan!).
In order to build a team, you can either bring together a bunch of strangers or destroy an existing team. Last year, Bayern decided to do the latter. Facing tons of criticism from all over Germany, they lured four players away from Alba Berlin (Djedovic, Idbihi, Schaffartzik, Thompson), instantly turning them into their big rivals.
The two biggest signings, however, didn't come from Berlin. The starting spot at center was filled (literally) by John Bryant, the Bundesliga's Most Valuable Player of the last two seasons. Also needed was a new star at the point guard position, and the Pesics chose Malcolm Delaney, a Baltimore native who had already led his clubs to league titles in France and the Ukraine.
The regular season was a success. The first home game of the season was played against Bamberg who had just won their fourth consecutive league title. Bayern won 84-74. The team went on to win 29 of its 34 games, only losing to Berlin (twice), Oldenburg, Frankfurt and at home against Quakenbrück. They were by far the most offensive-minded team, averaging over 85 points per game (league average: 78 ppg), and Malcolm Delaney was voted Most Valuable Player.
While winning the league was the main target, there was a second major thing going on: Bayern got invited to participate in the Euroleague. Yes, invited. That's how things go in the world of basketball. The group draw was very friendly, considering that Bayern were in weak pot 6: the giants of Olympiakos, three good but beatable teams in Galatasaray, Malaga and Siena plus the underdogs from Zielona Gora.
The first ever Euroleague game took place in Poland, and FCBB got a comfortable win. The first home game, against Siena, was just as much of a success (89-79). Even the first loss felt like a win, Bayern only lost by 5 in Greece against the mighty Olympiakos. A weak stretch with five consecutive losses, including an embarrassing one at home against Zielona Gora and a very respectable one against Olympiakos (Schaffartzik missing a last-second throw for the win), and suddenly Bayern were in danger of being eliminated. A win against Galatasaray was needed to secure the spot in the top 16, and they delivered: the 88-68 meant that Bayern finished fourth, enough to survive the group.
What followed was often impressive, sometimes heartbreaking, once heroic. Bayern couldn't make it out of the group that included two of Europe's best in Madrid and Moscow in addition to the eventual winners from Tel Aviv, the familiar faces of Galatasaray and the rich boys from Kazan (+ Partizan and Zalgiris Kaunas). A record of 5-9 meant that they were two wins short of the huge surprise, a realistic surprise as many losses were unlucky and avoidable.
The (arguably) biggest night in Bayern Basketball history took place on March 13. With a record of 4-5, the dreams of making it to the quarterfinals were still alive. However, there was no doubt that the number of losses was about to increase by one. Bayern were hosts against Real Madrid. A long-time rival in football, this was a completely unbalanced matchup here, with Madrid's record (both group stages) at that time being 18-1. The first leg in Madrid was a clear 111-87 win for the Spaniards. But this night was a magical one.
At half time, things looked normal. Madrid had a 8-point lead, not a crazy number but good enough. After quarter number three, the lead was reduced to 4 points and the Spanish favorites started to worry a bit that this wasn't gonna be the comfortable night they had expected. The fourth and final quarter was a rollercoaster, as constant lead changes made it anyone's game. With a bit over a minute to go, Nihad Djedovic and Bryce Taylor hit three-pointers to give Bayern a lead they wouldn't give up. Delaney and, again, Taylor hit some crucial free throws and eventually the game was over. Bayern won 85-83, and nobody could believe it. Europe was forced to take note of the new boys from Bavaria.
The German cup was the least remarkable story of the year. Bayern beat Quakenbrück to qualify for the final four in Ulm. Unfortunately, the team struggled to get things done that weekend and threw away the easiest way of winning a title. The semi was a massive yet deserved loss against the hosts, Ulm won 90-72. While the third-place game is never that important, I'm sure Bayern would've enjoyed beating Bamberg. Instead they lost 73-79 and left Ulm in disappointment.
While the Euroleague was an exciting tour and the cup a nice opportunity, the main course still was the German league. Unlike in football, winning the regular season means nothing but home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The first round was incredibly weird. Eighth-placed Ludwigsburg were destroyed in game one (101-57) but shocked Bayern in game two (83-85). Following a nice FCBB win in game three (104-82), the series seemed to be over when one of the weirder moments in German basketball history occurred...
Game four was close, very close. The kind of game where every shot matters. With Ludwigsburg's season on the line and only 90 seconds left to play, Bryce Taylor fouled Michael Stockton (you might've heard of his father, John). Nothing spectacular. Stockton made the first free throw and was about to take the second one when the Bayern bench started complaining to the refs that he wasn't the guy who was fouled, so he shouldn't be taking these shots. A legit complaint, and I'm sure Pesic was honestly convinced that something went wrong (and even if not, it's not his job to call the game). After some talking, the refs agreed with Pesic, ruling that Stockton wasn't fouled and, as such, he wasn't allowed to take the free throws. The result: the shot didn't count and, instead of two free throws for Ludwigsburg, Bayern got possession. As you can imagine, the crowd went nuts at that point. They were hostile, their team was distracted, and Bayern won 82-75, winning the series 3-1.
Not even 24 hours later the league announced that the refs made a big mistake (it was Stockton who was fouled), and there would be a complete rematch of game four. An angry Ludwigsburg spent so much time thinking about revenge that they forgot to play ball. This time around, Bayern won 86-68, their fourth win in a best-of-five series. Now, Ludwigsburg's season really was over and, more importantly, Bayern through to the semis for the second year in a row.
A huge advantage of winning the regular season is that you don't have to face the second- or third-best team until the finals. For Bayern that meant no Bamberg or Berlin in the semis, although Bamberg were upset by Quakenbrück anyway, thus not reaching the semifinals for the first time in god knows how many years. That being said, fourth-placed Oldenburg (25-9 record) deserved a lot of respect, and at this point. you could argue that they were stronger than Bamberg.
The series brought some great basketball and huge worries for Bayern fans. Game one and two went to FCBB, the finals shirts were already printed. Game three was lost in overtime, no big deal. When Oldenburg also claimed game four, Munich started to panic. Was this team about to choke, embarrassing themselves with all of Germany watching? Short answer: no. The 88-63 win in game five was a big statement and, of course, had Bayern qualify for the finals for the first time in like half a century. The opponent? None other than Alba Berlin. Of course.
The situation wasn't perfect. Bayern had to play five games in both of their series while Berlin got two convincing 3-1 wins. Alba also won both regular season games. They seemed to have Bayern's number.
The matchup couldn't have been any better for the league and the media: the best offense (Bayern) against the best defense (Berlin). Yet, that wasn't the main talking point. Berlin were still pissed that four of their players were "stolen" by Munich, their manager exchanging insults with the Pesic family, and their fans not only booing the former players but even crucifying a Schaffartzik jersey during a game between the teams. To say it was a heated atmosphere would be a ridiculous understatement.
Bayern won game one at home, 88-81 with a good amount of luck. Berlin deservedly won game two at home, 95-81. Game three, back in Munich, was a crucial one as the winner would be one win away from the championship. It was a game of two halves, with Berlin winning the first one (48-39) and Bayern taking over in the second half (53-38). If you're not good at math, that leads to a 92-86 win for Bayern. One win away from the first title since 1955. Yet, a party in Berlin seemed unlikely, Bayern just never looked good in that arena.
Game four was intense. It's difficult to recap this battle. The game was close until the most unexpected event put the dagger in the collective Berlin hearts: Steffen Hamann, team captain and awful shooter (15 three-point attempts in 35 appearances until the final), hit two long-range shots to break Alba's neck and make the Bayern bench and fans go crazy. With only seconds to go, Heiko Schaffartzik got a chance to thank Berlin for a season full of hate. Bayern won game four, Bayern won the championship.
The rest is one big party.