ABA League

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ABA League
Current season, competition or edition:
2014–15 Liga ABA
ABA liga logo.png
ABA League logo
Sport Basketball
Founded 2001
CEO Josip Bilić
Inaugural season 2001–02
No. of teams 14
Countries  Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Hungary
 Macedonia
 Montenegro
 Serbia
 Slovenia
 Bulgaria
Continent FIBA Europe (Europe)
Most recent champion(s) Croatia Cibona (1st title)
(2013–14)
Most titles Serbia Partizan (6 titles)
TV partner(s) Arena Sport
Šport TV
Sport 1
MKTV
RTS
RTRS
HRT
RTCG
Official website abaliga.com (English)

The ABA League, commonly known as the Adriatic League, is a regional professional basketball league that originally featured clubs from the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia). In later years, the league also consisted clubs from the Czech Republic, Israel, Hungary and Bulgaria that received wild card invitations. Due to sponsorship reasons, the league was also known as the Goodyear League from 2001 until 2006, and as the NLB League from 2006 until 2011.

The league exists alongside scaled-down national leagues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. All but one of Adriatic League clubs join their country's own competitions in late spring after the Adriatic League regular season and post-season have been completed.

The Adriatic League is a private venture, founded in 2001 and run by Slovenian limited liability company called Sidro. Adriatic Basketball Association is the body that organizes the league and is a full member of ULEB as well as a voting member of the Euroleague board. The competition can thus be considered a local version of the Europe-wide Euroleague, in which a few Adriatic League clubs also compete.

The formation of the Adriatic League has inspired similar regional competitions all over Europe such as: Baltic Basketball League (started in 2004), Central European Basketball League (2007), Balkan International Basketball League (2008), and VTB United League (2008).

History[edit]

Throughout mid-to-late 1990s, in the years after the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia and ensuing Yugoslav Wars, various basketball administrators from the newly independent Balkan states talked about re-assembling a basketball competition to fill the void left by the dissolution of the Yugoslav basketball league whose last season was played in 1991–92.[1]

Such a competition was agreed in principal at a meeting in Ljubljana on 3 July 2001 by representatives of four basketball clubs: Bosna, Budućnost, Cibona, and Olimpija. Though club representatives from four countries attended the meeting, the main individuals behind the venture were six Slovenians and Croatians: Roman Lisac, Zmago Sagadin (at the time head coach of Olimpija and arguably the biggest authority figure in Slovenian basketball), Radovan Lorbek (at the time president of Olimpija), Josip Bilić, Danko Radić, and Bože Miličević (at the time president of Cibona). Established as a private venture, the league was placed under umbrella of Sidro d.o.o. company that was registered in Slovenia on 14 September 2001. The company actually controls the competition through legal entity called Adriatic Basketball Association (ABA), which also manages the league's day-to-day operations.[citation needed]

The 2001 establishment of the Balkan-wide regional Adriatic League meant that existing national basketball leagues in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina underwent major re-organization with their respective top clubs leaving their domestic competitions to compete in the regional one. The ABA clubs returned in late spring for the end of the domestic season.

On the public relations front, Adriatic League was met with strong and mixed reactions. Though many hailed it as an important step for the development of club basketball in the Balkans region, many others felt that it brings no new quality and that it's not worth dismantling three domestic leagues. There was a lot of negative reaction from political circles, especially in Croatia, with even TV panel discussions being broadcast on Croatian state television. A very vociferous opinion in the country saw the league's formation as a political attempt to reinstate Yugoslavia.[2] The league organizers for their part did their best to appease the Croatian public with statements such as the one delivered by Radovan Lorbek in Slobodna Dalmacija in September 2001:

Ten years later, in a 2011 interview for the Serbian newspaper Press, Roman Lisac explained the league's behind the scenes strategy during its nascent stages was actually quite different:

On 28 September 2001, the league announced a five-year sponsorship deal with Slovenian company Sava Tires from Kranj, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The deal also included naming rights, hence from 2001 until 2006, the competition was known as the Goodyear League.

Debut season[edit]

With twelve clubs taking part in the inaugural 2001–02 season, the competition commenced in fall 2001 with four teams from Slovenia, four teams from Croatia, three teams from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one team from FR Yugoslavia. The very first game was contested in Ljubljana between Olimpija and Široki on Saturday, 29 September 2001 at 5:30pm.[6]

Though the competition purported to gather the strongest sides from former Yugoslavia, as mentioned, teams from Serbia were noticeably absent, particularly Belgrade powerhouses and biggest regional crowd draws Partizan and Crvena Zvezda. In addition to no clubs from Serbia proper, the league had no Serb-dominated clubs from Bosnia-Herzegovina either. Since the league founders mostly avoided talking about the issue due to fears of media backlash, the fact that no invitations were extended to Serbian clubs was generally explained through security issues due to organizers' fears of crowd trouble if Croatian and Serbian clubs were to start playing again in the same competition. Then in early February 2002, the public got a preview of just that when Cibona and Partizan met in Zagreb as part of that season's Euroleague group stage. In a nationalistically charged and incident-filled encounter, Croatian fans peppered the Partizan players with rocks, flares, and even ceramic tiles before physically assaulting Partizan head coach Duško Vujošević in the guest team dressing room after the game.[7]

The Adriatic League debut season was marked by dwindling attendances and lukewarm media support. Still the league did receive a bit of a shot in the arm on 24 February 2002, when its managing body ABA got accepted as full member of ULEB.[8]

Second season[edit]

For the 2002–03 season, the league remained at the total number of 12 teams, while it went through major re-tooling internally. By the time season started, four teams dropped out (Sloboda Dita, Budućnost, Triglav, and Geoplin Slovan) to be replaced by: Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, Crvena Zvezda (the first team from Serbia in the competition), the Bosnian Serb outfit KK Borac, and Croatian club KK Zagreb.[citation needed]

Getting Maccabi on board brought the league some much needed credibility and positive media exposure. Still, it was understood all along the Tel Aviv club wouldn't stick around for long. Much more important for the league's long term business was negotiating acceptable terms for the Serbian clubs to join the competition. To that end, Lorbek and Lisac went to Belgrade in early April 2002 with an offer of taking in three clubs from FR Yugoslavia for the Adriatic League's 2002–03 season.[9] The offer was flatly rejected initially by the representatives of five YUBA league clubs - Partizan, Crvena Zvezda, Hemofarm, FMP, and Budućnost - as their unified platform was either all five or nothing. Taking in all five required expanding the league to 14 teams, which was something the league organizers weren't prepared to do due to the associated increase in operating costs. The negotiated agreement thus fell through for the time being. However, it didn't take long for dents to appear in the unified front put forth by five YUBA league clubs - in May 2002 Crvena Zvezda's management (three businessmen close to the ruling Democratic Party in Serbia: Živorad Anđelković, Igor Žeželj, and Goran Vesić) hired Zmago Sagadin to be the club's new general manager - and soon after, in June 2002, the club broke the ranks by negotiating terms on its own thus agreeing to join the Adriatic League for the 2002–03 season.[10]

Maccabi Tel Aviv left the league after one season, but the league expanded to 14 teams for 2003–04, and to 16 for 2004–05.[citation needed]

The league reverted to 14 teams for 2005–06. In September 2006 the league signed a general sponsorship contract with Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB) and was renamed to NLB League, whilst keeping Goodyear as one of the major sponsors.[citation needed]

In 2010, the Czech club Nymburk joined the league for the first time.[citation needed]

In 2011, in search of increased level of competition, the Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to the league after an eight-year absence. In next 2012–13 season, the ABA League is going to have the one Macedonian team, MZT Skopje and one Hungarian team, Szolnoki Olaj.[citation needed]

Logos[edit]

All-time participants (2001–2014)[edit]

The following is a list of clubs who have played in the Adriatic League at any time since its formation in 2001 (as Goodyear League) to the current season. Teams playing in the 2014–15 ABA League season are indicated in bold. A total of 32 teams from 10 countries have played in the Adriatic League.

Club 01–02 02–03 03–04 04–05 05–06 06–07 07–08 08–09 09–10 10–11 11–12 12–13 13–14 14–15 Total
seasons
Highest finish
Bosnia and Herzegovina Borac Banja Luka
11th
13th
2
11th
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosna
12th
12th
QF
QF
10th
7th
13th
7
Quarter-finals
Bosnia and Herzegovina Igokea
11th
SF
6th
TBD
4
Semi-finals
Bosnia and Herzegovina Sloboda Tuzla
5th
1
5th
Bosnia and Herzegovina Široki
6th
9th
12th
13th
11th
11th
12th
10th
9th
5th
10th
14th
12
5th
Bulgaria Levski Sofia
TBD
1
TBD
Croatia Cedevita
7th
7th
2nd
6th
2nd
TBD
6
2nd
Croatia Cibona
SF
5th
2nd
QF
QF
SF
QF
2nd
2nd
12th
7th
11th
1st
TBD
14
1st
Croatia Split
8th
10th
9th
15th
14th
10th
10th
14th
8
8th
Croatia Šibenka
11th
1
11th
Croatia Triglav osiguranje
10th
1
10th
Croatia Zadar
7th
1st
8th
QF
QF
7th
SF
5th
8th
14th
12th
13th
TBD
13
1st
Croatia Zagreb
6th
11th
12th
13th
12th
11th
13th
6th
5th
9th
10
5th
Czech Republic Nymburk
8th
1
8th
Hungary Szolnoki Olaj
13th
12th
TBD
3
12th
Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv
2nd
1st
2
1st
Republic of Macedonia MZT Skopje
7th
9th
TBD
3
7th
Montenegro Budućnost
9th
5th
14th
5th
QF
6th
5th
SF
SF
5th
5th
TBD
12
Semi-finals
Montenegro Lovćen Cetinje
14th
1
14th
Serbia Crvena Zvezda
SF
SF
SF
SF
6th
QF
SF
9th
13th
10th
2nd
SF
TBD
13
2nd
Serbia FMP
1st
SF
1st
2nd
QF
8th
12th
7
1st
Serbia Hemofarm
1st
SF
SF
2nd
SF
SF
6th
12th
8
1st
Serbia Mega Vizura
8th
TBD
2
th
Serbia Metalac Valjevo
TBD
1
TBD
Serbia Partizan
2nd
2nd
1st
1st
1st
1st
1st
SF
1st
SF
TBD
11
1st
Serbia Radnički Kragujevac
11th
10th
8th
SF
11th
5
Semi-finals
Serbia Vojvodina Novi Sad
QF
9th
14th
3
Quarter-finals
Slovenia Helios Domžale
16th
12th
8th
13th
12th
14th
13th
7
8th
Slovenia Slovan
11th
10th
10th
9th
13th
14th
6
9th
Slovenia Krka
2nd
7th
7th
11th
SF
11th
9th
7th
TBD
9
2nd
Slovenia Olimpija
1st
SF
SF
QF
10th
9th
SF
9th
SF
2nd
6th
8th
10th
TBD
14
1st
Slovenia Zlatorog Laško
SF
8th
6th
9th
14th
14th
6
Semifinals

Competition[edit]

Competition system[edit]

As of the 2013–14 season the league comprises a 26-game regular season, with the top 4 sides making the play-offs.[11]

From 2002 through 2004, four teams qualified, and the playoffs were termed the "Final Four"; starting in 2005, eight teams advanced to the "Final Eight" round. All playoff rounds consist of one-off knockout matches, unusual among European leagues. However, since all Adriatic League clubs play in domestic leagues at the same time, and many also play in the Euroleague, the current format has the virtue of limiting fixture congestion for the playoff sides.

2012–13 season[edit]

In the 2012–13 season, 14 teams will play in the regular part of the season.

Each team plays against every other team twice, once at home and once away. After 26 rounds, when all teams play against each other, first 4 teams are qualified to the "Final Four" tournament.

1st team after regular part of the season plays in the first semifinal game (only one match is played) against 4th team after regular part, and 2nd team after regular part plays against 3rd team after regular part of the season in the second semifinal game (only one match is played).

Winners of both semifinal matches play the final match (only one match is played), there is no match for 3rd place.[12]

National standings[edit]

The coefficient is the sum of all victories clubs from a certain country achieve in a regular season divided by the number of clubs from that country. By using this coefficient majority of places for current season are allocated, while the remaining places are given via wild cards from league board. This standings are applied for clubs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, while clubs from other countries can play in league only via wild cards.[citation needed]

2012–13 season[edit]

A new method of place allocation has been used since the 2012–13 season. Using the national coefficients from the last ten seasons nine positions were allocated, with Croatia and Serbia receiving 3 each, Slovenia receiving two and Bosnia and Herzegovina receiving 1. These spaces are filled based on the final standings of each country's respective league (i.e. the champions of each country's league and runners-up according to the number of places each country has been allocated. The five remaining positions in the league are allocated by wild-card. One wildcard place is awarded to the 4th placed team of either Croatia or Serbia, with another space being reserved for either a 3rd Slovenian or 2nd Bosnian team.[citation needed]

The league's board decide who they would like to award the final three wildcards. Usually they are awarded to the national champions of other countries. In the 2012–13 season the wildcards were awarded to the champions of the Montenegrin, Macedonian, and Israeli leagues; however, Maccabi Tel Aviv having won the previous season with only one competitive loss (and a forfeit for being unable to arrange transportation for the visiting team) decided to withdraw from the competition. Hungarian champions, Szolnoki Olaj were invited to take their place.[13]

Country No. 2013–14 coeff. 2014–15 no. of clubs
 Serbia 3 15.5 4
 Croatia 3 14.33 3
 Slovenia 2 11.5 3
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 9.5 1

Current season teams (2014–2015)[edit]

Country Teams Qualification Team City Venue (Capacity) European participation in 2013–14 season
Serbia Serbia 4
1st in the Basketball League of Serbia Partizan NIS Belgrade Pionir Hall (8,150) Eurocup
2nd in the Basketball League of Serbia Crvena zvezda Telekom Belgrade Pionir Hall (8,150) Euroleague
3rd in the Basketball League of Serbia Mega Vizura Belgrade Sports Hall Smederevo (2,600)
Wild card Metalac Farmakom Valjevo Valjevo Sports Hall (2,500)
Croatia Croatia 3
1st place in the A-1 Liga Cedevita Zagreb Dom Sportova (3,500) Euroleague
2nd place in the A-1 Liga Cibona Zagreb Dražen Petrović Basketball Hall (5,400)
3rd place in the A-1 Liga Zadar Zadar Krešimir Ćosić Hall (10,000)
Slovenia Slovenia 2
Champion of the 1.A SKL Krka Novo mesto Leon Štukelj Hall (3,000)
Runners up of the 1.A SKL Union Olimpija Ljubljana Arena Stožice (12,480) Eurocup
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 Champion of Premijer liga BiH Igokea Aleksandrovac Laktaši Sports Hall (3,050)
Bulgaria Bulgaria 1 Wild card Levski Sofia Sofia Universiada Hall (3,000)
Hungary Hungary 1 Wild card Szolnoki Olaj KK Szolnok Tiszaligeti Sportcsarnok (3,000) Eurocup
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 1 Wild card MZT Skopje Skopje Boris Trajkovski Sports Center (8,000)
Montenegro Montenegro 1 Wild card Budućnost Podgorica Morača Sports Center (5,000) Eurocup

Palmares[edit]

Champions[edit]

Finals[edit]

Year Host City Champion Runner Up Final
2001–02
Details
Ljubljana Slovenia Olimpija (Union) Slovenia Krka 73-59
2002–03
Details
Ljubljana Croatia Zadar Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv 91-88
2003–04
Details
Zagreb Serbia and Montenegro FMP (Reflex) Croatia Cibona 71-70
2004–05
Details
Belgrade Serbia and Montenegro Vršac (Hemofarm) Serbia and Montenegro Partizan 89-76
2005–06
Details
Sarajevo Serbia and Montenegro FMP Serbia and Montenegro Partizan 73-72
2006–07
Details
Belgrade Serbia Partizan Serbia FMP *85-83 / 94-*82
2007–08
Details
Ljubljana Serbia Partizan Serbia Vršac (Hemofarm) 69-51
2008–09
Details
Belgrade Serbia Partizan Croatia Cibona 63-49
2009–10
Details
Zagreb Serbia Partizan Croatia Cibona 75-74
2010–11
Details
Ljubljana Serbia Partizan Slovenia Olimpija (Union) 77-74
2011–12
Details
Tel Aviv Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv Croatia Cedevita 87-77
2012–13
Details
Laktaši Serbia Partizan Serbia Crvena Zvezda 71-63
2013–14
Details
Belgrade Croatia Cibona Croatia Cedevita 72-59

Titles by club[edit]

Rank Club Champion Finalist
1. Serbia Partizan 6
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
2
2005, 2006
2. Serbia FMP 2
2004, 2006
1
2007
3. Croatia Cibona 1
2014
3
2004, 2009, 2010
4. Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv 1
2012
1
2003
5. Serbia Vršac 1
2005
1
2008
6. Slovenia Olimpija 1
2002
1
2011
7. Croatia Zadar 1
2003
8. Croatia Cedevita 2
2012, 2014
9. Serbia Crvena Zvezda 1
2013
10. Slovenia Krka 1
2002

Titles by Nation[edit]

Rank Nation Champion Finalist
1. Serbia Serbia 9
Partizan (6), FMP (2), Hemofarm (1)
5
Partizan (2), FMP (1), Hemofarm (1), Crvena Zvezda (1)
2. Croatia Croatia 2
Cibona (1), Zadar (1)
5
Cibona (3), Cedevita (2)
3. Slovenia Slovenia 1
Olimpija (1)
2
Krka (1), Olimpija (1)
4. Israel Israel 1
Maccabi Tel Aviv (1)
1
Maccabi Tel Aviv (1)

Individual awards[edit]

Notable players[edit]

Well-known basketball players who have played in the Adriatic League include:

Australia Australia

Belize Belize

Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria Bulgaria

Canada Canada

Croatia Croatia

Czech Republic Czech Republic

Finland Finland

France France

Gabon Gabon

Greece Greece

Guyana Guyana

Hungary Hungary

Israel Israel

Jamaica Jamaica

Latvia Latvia

Republic of Macedonia Macedonia

Montenegro Montenegro

Nigeria Nigeria

Panama Panama

Puerto Rico Puerto Rico

Serbia Serbia

Slovenia Slovenia

Turkey Turkey

United Kingdom United Kingdom

United States United States

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]