NEBL slogan: Break the ice!

  • 2000-04-20
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Moscow CSKA became the first champion of the Northern European Basketball League. It was the first official season of the NEBL. Four of the strongest teams of the NEBL came to Vilnius where the Final Four competition was held in the Vilnius Sports Arena on April 15-16.

The semi-finals were played on April 15 - Moscow CSKA beat Kiev Kyiv 105-88 and Vilnius Lietuvos Rytas outscored Kaunas Zalgiris 74-67.

The finals were held on April 16. Kyiv was severely beaten by Zalgiris 88-110. The Kaunas club occupied third place in the NEBL championship.

The superfinal of the NEBL was played by Vilnius Lietuvos Rytas and Moscow CSKA.

As some 5,000 screaming and shouting fans of Lietuvos Rytas gathered in the Vilnius Sports Arena, the announcer's voice greeted them, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to hell."

Lietuvos Rytas disappointed its fans and lost 77-95. Moscow CSKA received the NEBL Cup and a $45,000 check for first place.

"It is easier for us to play versus Lietuvos Rytas than Zalgiris. Vilnius guys don't believe in their strength," Stanislav Yeriomin, CSKA coach, said.

"We almost equalized the game in the third period. However, we didn't have enough faith to win," agreed Arvydas Macijauskas, Lietuvos Rytas player.

However, Lietuvos Rytas received a kind of repayment. Its sniper Andrius Giedraitis was recognized the most valuable player of the NEBL. The announcer called him "a man who does not recognize laws of gravitation."

Fourteen leading clubs from Lithuania, Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Denmark took part in the first official season of the NEBL. Two years ago Sarunas Marciulionis, a former NBA player and member of the Lithuanian national team, created this league. The NEBL headquarters are located in Vilnius.

Last year the Promotion Cup of the NEBL was held. Kaunas Zalgiris won it.

Marciulionis, commissioner of the NEBL, told Krepsinis, the Lithuanian basketball magazine, that he has special hopes for Scandinavia. Marciulionis expressed satisfaction that Lithuanian emissaries of the NEBL taught Scandinavians how to play basketball and how to make a business out of it. The Scandinavians' desire for hoops is important for the NEBL. No wonder that the official slogan of the NEBL says, "Break the Ice."

The NEBL is the most financially successful basketball league in Europe, the NEBL authorities stated in Vilnius. The NEBL has close contacts with the NBA. The latter is advising the NEBL.

Next year, the NEBL plans to expand. The Czech Republic, Belarus, England, Poland and the Netherlands expressed wishes to join. The final word about expansion belongs to Marciulionis.