The Best European Basketball Leagues: Teams And Players
Some of the European basketball leagues that are most talked about in recent years include EuroLeague, EuroCup, ACB, VTB or ABA League. These European basketball competitions have some of the best European players in them. European basketball leagues are undeniably talented, making them a valuable resource for NBA teams.
Basketball in Europe
Organized Basketball in Europe started way back in 1935 when the first FIBA European Championship (EuroBasket) was held. It served as a test event preceding the first Olympic basketball tournament at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
Following the success of the first European football club competition, basketball quickly followed suit, establishing the FIBA European Champions Cup in 1958. The competition consisted of 23 clubs, all champions of their domestic leagues. The first champion of the European Champions Cup was Rigas ASK from the Soviet Union (today’s Latvia).
Which European Country is the Best at Basketball?
If we look at EuroBasket’s history, the Soviet Union was the most successful, winning 14 gold medals, including 8 in a row from 1959-1971, followed by Yugoslavia, which won 8 gold medals. If we exclude the countries that don’t exist anymore, Spain is the most successful with 4 gold, 6 silver, and 4 bronze medals.
On the club level, Real Madrid from Spain is the most successful, winning 10 European trophies, followed by CSKA Moscow from Russia who won 8 titles.
The Top 7 Basketball Leagues in Europe
The league is widely considered the top-tier league in Europe. The league consists of 18 teams in a single group. Each team plays the other twice, home and away, totaling 34 games per team. The top eight teams (based on the number of wins) advance to the EuroLeague Playoffs. Winners of each series advance to the EuroLeague Final Four which is held at a predetermined location. Both the semi-finals and finals are single-game knockouts, with the winner of the finals being the European Champions!
The league was first organized by FIBA in 1958, subsequently by ULEB in 2000, and then solely the Euroleague Basketball.
The EuroLeague title has been won by 22 clubs, 14 of which have won it more than once. In the table below, you can see the list of the 5 most successful clubs in the competition:
|Team||Country||No. of Titles (Year)|
|1.||Real Madrid||Spain||10 (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1995, 2015, 2018)|
|2.||CSKA Moscow||Russia||8 (1961, 1963, 1969, 1971, 2006, 2008, 2016, 2019)|
|3.||Maccabi Tel Aviv||Israel||6 (1977, 1981, 2001*, 2004, 2005, 2014)|
|4.||Panathinaikos||Greece||6 (1996, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009, 2011)|
|5.||Varese||Italy||5 (1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976)|
Spain’s Liga ACB
Widely considered the best domestic league, Liga ACB is the top professional basketball division in Spain. Similar to Euroleague, ACB consists of 18 teams, with each other playing twice, both home and away games which makes it 34 games in total. Teams are ranked by their total wins, with the top eight teams advancing to the playoffs, and the winner of the playoffs is crowned the Liga ACB champion.
Since its inception by the Spanish Basketball Federation in 1983, FC Barcelona is the most successful club with 16 domestic titles, followed closely by Real Madrid who won 14 times.
Including the previous formats, Real Madrid is the most successful club with 36 domestic titles followed by FC Barcelona with 19 in total. Here’s the list of the 5 most successful teams in Spain.
Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL)
The Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL) is the top-tier basketball league in Turkey. BSL was founded in 1966. It replaced the former Turkish Basketball Championship (1946–1966) to become the Turkish Basketball League. It is structured similarly to the other leagues, with 16 teams playing each other twice. The top 8 teams advance to the playoffs, and the bottom two clubs are relegated to the lower division. The winner of the playoffs is crowned the Turkish champions.
Since 1966, Anadolu Efes is the most successful club with 15 titles, followed by Fenerbahce with 11. Here’s the list of the top 5 best clubs in Turkish Basketball League history.
Italian Lega Basket Serie A
One of the oldest professional leagues in the world, the Italian Lega Serie A established itself early as one of the best European basketball leagues. Founded in the early 20s, 99 clubs have competed, and seventeen of them have been crowned champions.
Today, the league consists of 16 clubs, each of which plays the other twice. Top 8 teams advance to the playoffs, with the bottom two being relegated to Serie B. The winner of the playoffs is crowned the Lega Basket Serie A champion.
The most successful team is Olimpia Milano (financed by Giorgio Armani), winning it 28 times, and it’s followed by Virtus Bologna, who was a champion 16 times.
|4.||Mens Sana 1871||6|
|5.||Assi Milano (former team)||6|
French Pro A-League
Another European basketball league that has been around for a long time is the French Pro A. It started in 1921 under the name “Excellence.” Currently, the league has 18 teams, however, from season 2023-24 it will be reduced to 16.
Like other European leagues, the best 8 in the regular season clinch the spot in the playoffs, with the bottom two getting relegated to the lower division. The winner of the playoffs will become the champion of the French PRO A-League.
ASVEL has the most titles, winning 21 times, and is followed by Limoges CSP who’s won it 11 times in their history.
|4.||FAM (former club)||7|
|5.||Le Mans Sarthe||5|
Russia’s VTB United League
From the oldest to the youngest league in Europe. The VTB League was founded in 2008, and it is made mostly of Russian clubs, in addition, to one each from Belarus and Kazakhstan. Since 2013, it has served as the first tier of Russian professional club basketball. The highest-placed Russian team in the league is also named the Russian national champions.
Throughout its history, the VTB League consisted of teams from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Finland, and Poland, however, they all dropped out for various reasons.
The League had only 3 champions ever, with CSKA Moscow being the most dominant team with 11 titles, followed by Khimki and Zenit St. Petersburg with one.
Adriatic League (ABA)
Founded in 2001, the ABA League serves as the regional top-tier league that features clubs from the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Slovenia). Throughout the years, it had clubs from different nations that were receiving wild card invitations (most notably Maccabi Tel Aviv).
In its 22 years long history, the league had 9 different winners, with the best being Partizan and Crvena zvezda, both winning it 6 times.
|6.||Maccabi Tel Aviv||1||1|
Who is the Best EuroLeague Player of All Time?
In its long history, Euroleague has had some all-time talents. Players such as Avrydas Sabonis, Dejan Bodiroga, Drazen Petrovic, Juan Carlos Navarro, Dimitris Diamantidis, all have an impact on the game and its evolution.
Each one of them was dominant in its own way, Nikos Galis averaged 32.4 PPG in 125 games played, Nick Chalates has the most assist in Euroleague history and Paulius Jankunas holds the record with the most rebounds, 2,010.
Since we are unable to tell who is the best player, we will provide you with the top 5 players who had the most points in Euroleague history.
|1.||Vassilis Spanoulis||Panathinaikos, Olympiacos||4,455||12.5|
|2.||Juan Carlos Navarro||Barcelona||4,321||11.8|
|3.||Nando de Colo||Valencia, CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce, ASVEL||4,051||15.5|
|4.||Nikos Galis||Aris, Panathinaikos||4,047||32.4|
|5.||Mike James||Baskonia, Panathinaikos, Olimpia Milano, CSKA Moscow, Monaco||3,647||16.3|
Who do you think is the best Euroleague player of all time? Let us know in the comments below!
The best European basketball league is a tough question to answer but in this article, we have tried our best to rank the top seven basketball leagues in Europe based on their history, prestige, and competition level among other factors.
The list includes three major tournaments which are EuroLeague (considered one of the most competitive European Leagues around) Liga ACB-Spanish League (featuring some big names like Rudy Fernandez), and the Turkish Super League along with four more notable competitions.
We hope that this article was informative, and has given you a better idea of the several basketball leagues in Europe.
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