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FC Bayern Basketball 101 - A History Lesson

You've probably seen pictures of Bastian Schweinsteiger at the games or with the players, but what else do you know about FC Bayern Basketball? Here's part one of a short intro series, looking at the surprisingly eventful history.

Lennart Preiss

It's easy to see Bayern as a basketball intruder, as a club full of mercenaries that's only at the top of German b-ball because the big brother, the football department, decided to care about this a few years ago. While there's certainly some truth in this, it's not like the entire thing was founded in 2010. The story goes way back to the early post-war days.

Brought to life in 1946 by an injured football player who didn't want to retire from sports altogether, FCBB was an immediate success. Within the first ten years of its existence, the club won two German league titles and played an outdoor game in front of tens of thousands of spectators. They continued being one of Germany's better teams for another two decades - always fighting for the third championship, being a founding team of the new first division in 1966, and ultimately winning the German cup in 1968, their last title until this summer.

Just as the football team began its national and international dominance, the basketball team started a long period of struggle. Relegated from the first division in 1974, they spent 13 years in divisions two and three. A two-year spell in the Bundesliga in the late 1980s turned out to be a fluke The following twenty years were spent in lower divisions with an occasional appearance in the second division.

The breaking point was the promotion to the second division, now called ProA, in 2008. While the team was pure mediocrity (in a very positive way!), finishing 8th out of 16 both in 2008/09 and 2009/10, the club leaders started to take notice of the seemingly forgotten child again. In early 2010, all Bayern club members were asked to vote whether there should be a one-time investment in the basketball department, in an attempt to bring it back to the Bundesliga. Not every member participated - quite the shame in my opinion since all you had to do was send back a letter that was already paid for - but the majority of those who did voted for the investment.

Following that financial injection, FCBB made some spectacular signings. Dirk Bauermann, coach of the national team, took over to lead the club to promotion. The squad was a mix of young and old. It consisted of high-quality veterans (such as Steffen Hamann, Demond Greene, Darius Hall, Alex Nadjfeji) and young players with a lot of upside (Jonathan Wallace, Beckham Wyrick, Bastian Doreth, Bogdan Radosavljevic). Many argued that this team could make it to the Bundesliga playoffs so a top 2 finish in the ProA should be a walk in the park, and it was. The fans also showed a lot of interest in the project, the attendance numbers were increased by over 300%.

The first season in the Bundesliga since 1989 was a good one. Bayern finished the regular season 5th and lost the closest series of the entire playoffs, taking Quakenbrück all the way to game 5 of the best-of-5 series. They were also invited to participate in the Eurocup (the Europa League of basketball) where they were one win away from surviving the group stage.

Shortly before the beginning of the 2012/13 season, coach Bauermann had to leave the club. Following a short and unsuccessful stint with Yannis Christopoulos, Bayern then signed the legendary Svetislav Pesic as the new coach. It was an interesting signing not only because of his profile but also because his son, Marko Pesic, is the manager.

The season was yet another step forward, Bayern again made the playoffs where they beat ALBA Berlin before losing 2-3 in the semifinals against Bamberg (who went on to win their fourth consecutive league title). However, this time, Bamberg didn't win the double as they had the three previous years, because Bayern surprisingly beat them in the cup quarterfinals. Ultimately, the cup was won by Berlin, with Bayern finishing 3rd.

As you can see, the investment was an instant success and a huge boost. We're about to enter the fourth year since promotion, and Bayern are a force in the league and no longer a complete unknown in Europe. Why? That's something I'll tell you about in part 2 which will be all about last season, the best season in Bayern Basketball history.

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