The Greek Basket League (GBL), often referred to as the Greek Basketball League, Greek A1 Basketball League, or Greek Basketball Championship, is the 1st tier professional basketball league in Greece. It is run by HEBA (Greek: ΕΣΑΚΕ). The league is also known as the Greek Basket League OPAP for sponsorship reasons.
It is ranked as one of the top 3 level national domestic leagues in European basketball by the European national basketball league rankings. It consists of 14 teams and runs from October to June, with teams playing 26 games each during the regular season, and the top 8 teams then competing in the playoffs. The first official Greek Basketball Championship was held in the 1927-28 season.
Basketball first came to Greece in the year 1910. By the 1927-28 season, the first official championship began. There have been four different official championship eras. The first era was the Panhellenic Championship (Πανελλήνιο Πρωτάθλημα), which lasted from the 1927-28 to 1962-63 seasons, when the champions of every regional district played each other to decide the Greek Champion. The second era started in the 1963-64 season, when the A National Category (Α' Εθνική Κατηγορία) was founded.
In 1969, the Hellenic Basketball Federation (E.O.K.) took over the duties of overseeing the competition, and did so until the year 1992. The third era of the championship existed between the 1986-87 and 1991-92 seasons, when the first division A1 National Category (Α1 Εθνική Κατηγορία), with a regular season and playoffs, and the second division A2 National Category (Α2 Εθνική Κατηγορία) were formed. The fourth era of the championship began in the 1992-93 season, when the Hellenic Basketball Clubs Association (HEBA) took over the competition and renamed the first division the HEBA A1 (ΕΣΑΚΕ Α1). The league was then renamed to Greek Basket League, starting with the 2010-11 season.
The Greek League has been one of the most competitive basketball leagues in Europe through the years, and it was widely regarded as the second best national domestic league in the world, after only the NBA, in the 1990s decade. It currently ranks among the best national domestic leagues in the world (excluding the NBA), such as Liga ACB in Spain and VTB United League (counts as the domestic domestic league for Russian clubs). It is considered one of the top 3 European national domestic leagues under the European national basketball league rankings. The league has several great powers which belong to the most traditional European basketball clubs, especially the Euroleague giants Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. Other clubs that have had significant successes throughout the history of Greek basketball are AEK Athens and Aris. Along with PAOK, the aforementioned clubs are the most successful and widely supported in Greece.
Despite the championship having been contested 73 times, only nine different clubs have won it so far. The dominating club has always been Panathinaikos, having claimed the championship 33 times. Since the foundation of the A National Category in the 1963-64 season, only two teams have participated in every season of the competition, Panathinaikos and Aris.
The championship, in its current form, has been organized since the 1992-93 season by the Hellenic Basketball Clubs Association (HEBA). 28 pro Greek basketball teams are split into two different divisions. The first division championship, which is called the "A1", in which 14 teams compete for the Greek National Championship, and the second division championship, which is called the "A2", in which 14 teams compete for the second division crown. The bottom two place finishing teams each year in the A1 division standings are relegated to the A2 division, due to poor performance. While conversely, the top two teams each year from the A2 division are promoted to the A1 division, due to good performance.
Currently, Greek clubs must play their home games in arenas that seat at least 1,000 people in order to play Greek domestic league matches. Several Greek clubs have two arenas that they primarily use. One for domestic Greek League matches, and one for European-wide matches.
Greek clubs that play in the Euroleague or the Eurocup, must play their home games in those leagues in arenas that fit the arena standards of those leagues. Currently, a 5,000 seat arena minimum for the Euroleague, and a 3,000 seat arena minimum for the Eurocup.
Number of seasons in the A and A1 National Categories by club (1963-64 - 2012-13)
The number of times that clubs participated in the top A National Category, while it existed from the 1963-64 season to the 1985-86 season. As well as the number of times that clubs have participated in the top A1 National Category, since it began with the 1986-87 season. Only two clubs, Panathinaikos and Aris, have played in the top division every year since its formation.
Greek basketball clubs at the Euroleague Final Four
Panathinaikos has made 11 Euroleague Final Four appearances (with 12 top 4 place finishes), has played in the Euroleague Final 7 times, and has won the Euroleague championship 6 times. Olympiacos has made 8 Euroleague Final Four appearances, has played in the Euroleague Final 6 times, and has won the Euroleague championship three times. AEK Athens has made 3 Euroleague Final Four appearances and has played in the Euroleague Final once. PAOK has also played in the Euroleague Final Four once.