Lietuvos krepšinio lyga
|Current season, competition or edition:
2015–16 LKL season
|Founded||April 22, 1993 (as LKA)|
|No. of teams||10|
|Continent||FIBA Europe (Europe)|
|Most recent champion(s)||Žalgiris (17th title)|
|Most titles||Žalgiris (17 titles)|
|Related competitions||LKF Cup|
|Level on pyramid||1st tier|
Lietuvos krepšinio lyga (LKL) (English: Lithuanian Basketball League) is the premier professional men's basketball league in Lithuania, composed of 11 teams, and a member of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation. Top LKL clubs are annual participants of the top international competition in Europe, including the Euroleague.
The league was founded on April 22, 1993, as Lietuvos krepšinio asosiacija (English: Lithuanian Basketball Assosiation) (LKA). The first professional sports organisation in Lithuania. Later adapting the name Lietuvos krepšinio lyga. The league's headquarters is located in Vilnius.
Foundation and Žalgiris dominance
The Lithuanian Basketball Assosiation was founded in 1993, when eight of the strongest Lithuanian basketball clubs' officials met with representatives of the Šarūnas Marčiulionis basketball fund. The original eight teams were: Žalgiris Kaunas, Atletas Kaunas, Drobė Kaunas, Statyba Vilnius, Olimpas Plungė, BC Šilutė, Lietkabelis Panevėžys and Neptūnas Klaipėda. Later the league would become Lietuvos krepšinio lyga.
Since the league was founded, it has been dominated by Žalgiris. They won the league's championship trophy for six consecutive years, from 1994 through 1999. Their main rival during those years was Atletas. In 1999 Žalgiris, led by Tyus Edney became the first Lithuanian team to win the top European basketball competition, the Euroleague title.
In the 1999-2000 season Lietuvos rytas shocked defending Euroleague champions Žalgiris by ending their dominant run. That sparked most likely the biggest rivalry in Lithuanian sports, the competitiveness has brought over to politics and society between the two biggest cities in Lithuania.
In 2000–01 season the Greens got their revenge by beating Vilnius in the finals. In 2001–2002, Lietuvos rytas, led by Ramūnas Šiškauskas and Arvydas Macijauskas, once again defeated Žalgiris. However, during the next three seasons Žalgiris took control of the league and outplayed Lietuvos rytas (2003, 2004, 2005).
In 2006, Lietuvos rytas joined Žalgiris in the strongest European basketball competition, the Euroleague. That season the Reds, led by Robertas Javtokas, Simas Jasaitis and Fred House, beat Žalgiris 4–0. But from then on Žalgiris started winning once again – two titles in a row (2007, 2008). In 2008–2009 Lietuvos rytas won the league, beating Žalgiris 4–1. The winners were led by Chuck Eidson, Artūras Jomantas and Marijonas Petravičius. In 2009–10 season Vilnius claimed first back to back title, beating Žalgiris 4–3.
2010–11 saw Kaunas reclaim the tile, beating Vilnius 4–1. 2011–12 season: Žalgiris was the winner again, which sweeping Rytas by 3–0. In the 2012-2013 season, a much more powerful Žalgiris easily dominated the league and Lietuvos Rytas, winning the series 4-0.
In the 2013-2014 season, Žalgiris, despite having reached the Euroleague Top 16 phase, struggled in the national league, finishing 4th in the regular season, while Lietuvos rytas finished 1st. That eventually lead to a semifinal between the two teams that played in the last 17 finals of the competition. After winning a dramatic series 2-1 in Vilnius, Žalgiris continued their run of having appeared in all of the finals since the league's foundation. Neptūnas would beat Tonybet in the second semifinal and appeared in their first LKL finals of club history. Even though Žalgiris saw their three-peat after winning the series 4-2, Neptūnas became the 3rd Lithuanian team to compete in the Euroleague next season. However that was the last time a B licence entry was given to a Lithuania club, as Euroleague officials decided that an A licence for Žalgiris would be enough.
The 2014-2015 season saw the introduction of the 'four wheel system', where all the teams have to play 40 games with no exceptions for teams competing in international competition like the past. This year Žalgiris was able to finished 1st, but not before a dramatic win against Lietuvos rytas in the last game of the season 82-81.
...there's no better advertisement for Lithuanian basketball than this match. The season is long, fourty games, but everything is settled not only in the last game of the season, but in the last seconds of that game.—Gintaras Krapikas, head coach of Žalgiris
Žalgiris continued to dominate in the playoffs sweeping rivals Lietuvos rytas once again in the final. Despite a familiar ending, the season was marked by the growing competitiveness of the league, Neptūnas joined Žalgiris and Lietuvos rytas as a powerhouse and this edition saw a couple of upsets and close games from teams like Pieno žvaigždės and Juventus Utena.
|Lithuanian Basketball League teams|
|Team||Location||Arena||Founded||Joined LKL||Head Coach|
|Dzūkija||Alytus||Alytus Arena||2012||2013||Andrej Urlep|
|Juventus||Utena||Utena Arena||1999||2009||Antanas Sireika|
|Lietkabelis||Panevėžys||Cido Arena||1964||2007||Gintaras Kadžiulis|
|Lietuvos rytas||Vilnius||Siemens Arena||1963||1993||Marcelo Nicola|
|Neptūnas||Klaipėda||Švyturys Arena||1964||1993||Dainius Adomaitis|
|Nevėžis||Kėdainiai||Kėdainiai Arena||1992||2002||Virginijus Sirvydis|
|Pieno žvaigždės||Pasvalys||Pasvalys Pieno žvaigždės Arena||2000||2011||Mantas Šernius|
|Vytautas||Prienai-Birštonas||Prienai Entertainment and Sports Arena||1994||2009||Virginijus Šeškus|
|Šiauliai||Šiauliai||Šiauliai Arena||1994||Gediminas Petrauskas|
|Žalgiris||Kaunas||Žalgiris Arena||1944||1993||Gintaras Krapikas|
Podium by season
- In 1994–95, 1995–96 and 1996–97 seasons no bronze medal game was played. Positions are determined by regular season standings of the semifinalists.
Performance by club
|Team||Winners||Runners-Up||Bronzes||Fourth places||Winning years|
|Žalgiris||17||5||0||0||1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015|
|Lietuvos rytas||5||11||2||0||2000, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2010|
- "FIBA sprendimas: „Lietkabelio“ ir „Vytauto“ į turnyrą nepriėmė". Krepsinis.net. Retrieved 3 August 2015.