Lietuvos krepšinio lyga
|Current season, competition or edition:
2015–16 LKL season
|Founded||April 22, 1993|
|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 10 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.
On April 22, 1993, the Lietuvos krepšinio asosiacija (English: Lithuanian Basketball Assosiation) (LKA) was founded. It was the first professional sports organisation in Lithuania. Lietuvos krepšinio lyga was built on the foundation of the LKA. 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. This assosiation would soon announce their basketball league that would start in the upcoming fall. Later on, before the season started, the LKA and their new league accepted two more teams – Lavera Kaunas and NECA Kaunas. Although there had been early attempts to play club basketball in Lithuania right after restoring independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 with the same clubs that with later form the LKL, Marčiulionis, being the only Lithuanian that has played overseas in the National Basketball Association at the time, brought his experience of how a highest level basketball competition is run back home. For example, the inaugular season featured something used primarily in American sports, a draft, of three rounds. Olimpas went as far as selecting Marčiulionis himself in the second round, though no more drafts were held after that.
Following the 1993-94 season, the finalists of last season's LKAL, Sakalai Vilnius & BC Šiauliai joined the league, while Drobė Kaunas decided to withdraw due to financial difficulties. The 1994-95 season saw the league's foreign players emerge as star power, before they were more known to be role players. In the 1995-96 season the league continued to accept the champions of the LKAL to the league, Savy Alytus joined the league. Sharpshotter Joe Vickery became the first foreigner to lead the LKL in scoring for Olimpas. League officials would start pressuring teams to play in better arenas by setting up certain criterias that were necessary to get accepted into the league. That's why no more teams were accepted until 1998 when Olimpas Plungė went bankrupt and was replaced by BC Kraitienė based in Marijampolė. Some of the strongest teams like Šilutė and Atletas faded away to the bottom of the league and left the league.
During this time period, the league had 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 Kaunas lead by Saulius Štombergas and a young Žydrūnas Ilgauskas acquired from Žalgiris' youth team. Ilgauskas was selected 20th overall in the 1996 NBA draft, making him the first NBA player coming straight from the LKL. In 1999 Žalgiris, led by Tyus Edney, became the first Lithuanian team to win the top European basketball competition, the Euroleague title.
Golden era of Lithuanian basketball
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. The next season, the Green-whites got their revenge by beating Vilnius in the finals. But in 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).
There's no doubt this was a golden era in Lithuanian basketball as 2003 was the year the Lithuanian national men's basketball team won the Eurobasket 2003, the team featured a fair share of LKL players – Ramūnas Šiskauskas, Dainius Šalenga and Giedrius Gustas. In addition to that, some of the key players for the national team played in the LKL that same season.
The competitiveness didn't stop there. In 2006, Lietuvos rytas joined Žalgiris in the strongest European basketball competition, the Euroleague. That season the Reds, led by a young Robertas Javtokas, three-point specialist Simas Jasaitis and high flyer 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, led by Chuck Eidson, Artūras Jomantas and Marijonas Petravičius, Lietuvos rytas stopped the Greens from a three-peat, beating Žalgiris 4–1. 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. During the 2013-14 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 ever 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, forty 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 such as Pieno žvaigždės and Juventus Utena. Although a strong competitor Prienai had to go through blank season.
Six 2015–16 LKL season teams will participate in the European tournaments: Žalgiris (Euroleague), Lietuvos rytas and Neptūnas (ULEB Eurocup), Juventus, Pieno žvaigždės, Šiauliai (FIBA Europe Cup). Lietkabelis, Vytautas and Nevėžis will compete in the Baltic Basketball League. Dzūkija is the only LKL club not participating in any European or regional tournaments. The off-season by teams such as the rebranded Prienai (Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas), Lietkabelis and the continued work from last season's playoff seeds give fans hope for one of the most competitive seasons in league history.
|Lietuvos Krepšinio Lyga 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|
|Šiauliai||Šiauliai||Šiauliai Arena||1994||Gediminas Petrauskas|
|Vytautas||Prienai-Birštonas||Prienai Entertainment and Sports Arena||1994||2009||Virginijus Šeškus|
|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.
- "BBL reguliariajame sezone varžysis trys Lietuvos komandos". BasketNews.lt. Retrieved 21 August 2015.