Head coach of the British Basketball League's Sheffield Sharks, Atiba Lyons, recently called the league the "UK's best kept sporting secret." For those that already follow the league religiously, it's no secret at all. They frequently see exciting late-game comebacks, dramatic buzzer beaters, and plenty of shocking results that make Lyons' statement a valid one. Case in point, these most surprising BBL games. April 2, 1999: Sheffield Sharks 87, Manchester Giants 85 The finish to the 1... [read more]
Head coach of the British Basketball League's Sheffield Sharks, Atiba Lyons, recently called the league the "UK's best kept sporting secret."
For those that already follow the league religiously, it's no secret at all. They frequently see exciting late-game comebacks, dramatic buzzer beaters, and plenty of shocking results that make Lyons' statement a valid one.
Case in point, these most surprising BBL games.
April 2, 1999: Sheffield Sharks 87, Manchester Giants 85
The finish to the 1998-99 BBL regular season was the league's most dramatic. In front of the second largest crowd to ever watch a basketball game in England, at the time, Sheffield and Manchester battled to the final buzzer in a winner-takes-all regular season championship.
The Sharks and Giants were tied in points at the top of the table, but late in the game it was Sheffield that held a 10-point lead. That lead faded quickly and with 3.5 seconds left the game was tied 85-85. Unsurprisingly, the Sharks put the ball in the hands of the man that won them the National Cup on a buzzer beater earlier that year, Terrell Myers. Off the inbound, Myers faked out two Giants defenders and hit an 18-footer to give Sheffield their second league title in four seasons.
12 January 2014: Leicester Riders 72, Newcastle Eagles 69
For a few years now, Leicester and Newcastle have been the class of British basketball. To identify where this burgeoning rivalry was born, you don't need to look back much further than the 2012-13 BBL Cup Final, where Leicester edged out the Eagles to win their first Cup ever, 85-80.
Leicester overcame a late 11-point deficit to win the 2013-14 BBL Cup Final
Newcastle had the chance to exact revenge the following season and with an 11-point lead in the final six minutes, it appeared they would. But the Eagles' offense let up off the pedal, scoring just nine points in the final quarter. Two huge threes gave Leicester the lead with a minute to play, which they held onto for their second straight Cup win at the Eagles' expense.
06 January 2017: Essex Lions 86-84 Manchester Giants
One thing fans and punters alike love about British hoops is its level of parity that makes it impossible to predict what will happen on any given night, let alone in the league's knockout competitions. Case in point, the recent BBL Trophy matchup between Essex and Manchester.
Although Manchester is having an abysmal BBL campaign, they were still listed as -10000 favourites against Division 1/second-tier Essex online, where a wide range of sportsbooks means that you can wager on most sports including basketball, in the first round of the BBL trophy. But the Leopards' two former BBL talents Darrell Bethune and Mike Martin combined for 52 points, giving Essex the upset win and making any punter that took their +1150-money line look like a genius.
13 January 2008: Milton Keynes Lions 69-66 Newcastle Eagles
Possibly the biggest upset ever in a BBL Cup, the Milton Keynes (now London) Lions were tasked with taking on Newcastle in the 2007-08 Final. Despite having a long history, the Lions had little to show for it in their mostly empty trophy case. That wasn't really expected to change, as Newcastle were the established power of the league and just two years removed from winning all four major trophies in a single season.
To have any sort of shot, Milton Keynes needed to play out of their minds. After getting a slow start out of the way, they did. Thirteen-made three pointers gave them enough of a cushion to withstand a late Eagles' rally and to win their first ever major trophy.
23 November 2014: Leicester Riders 84-85 Glasgow Rocks
Ahead of their 2014 quarterfinal meeting, Leicester were the two-time defending BBL Cup champions, whereas Glasgow hadn't made it past the quarterfinals in seven years. Understandably, casual and diehard fans alike predicted a comfortable Riders victory.
Instead, it looked like it would be just a narrow one, as Leicester held just two-point lead with only two seconds remaining. That's when the Rocks' Kieron Achara bobbled an inbound pass in Leicester's' own end, then turned and threw up a prayer from 30 feet out. The ball careened off the backboard and through the net as the buzzer sounded, delivering a shocking end to Leicester's dreams of a Cup three-peat.
14 April 2012: Newcastle Eagles 74-82 Mersey Tigers
Ahead of the 2011-12 BBL season, some didn't even expect defending-champions Mersey to field a team due to financial issues. After a delayed start to their season, the Tigers eventually began play but saw a massive drop-off in performance from the prior year. Instead, 2011-12 belonged to Newcastle, who for the second time in their history won all four major competitions.
Given the Eagles' status as the UK's most successful hoops club, a repeat of this feat wasn't that unexpected. Title-challengers Plymouth lost on April 11 that season, officially clinching the league title for Newcastle. Amid great fanfare, the championship trophy would be presented a few days later at their next home game. But those meddlesome Tigers (who finished second from the bottom in the league) dampened the celebrations, pulling off a surprise 74-82 road win at Sport Central.
12 February 2016: London Lions 82-90 Surrey Scorchers
In their first season as the Scorchers, Surrey was anything but hot in the middle of the 2015-16 campaign. Heading into a mid-February road match against London, the Scorchers hadn't recorded a league win in nearly two months.
Late into the fourth quarter, it appeared that run would extend to 0-8. Down 21, Surrey finally seemed to reignite, scoring 11 straight baskets. That allowed the Scorchers to reclaim their first lead of the game since the opening quarter, outscore the Lions 35-6 in the fourth, and finally get back in the win column.
The NBA is experiencing a gilded age. Clubs have never been more valuable, television contracts have never been more lucrative, and investors are chomping at the bit to invest in the league. One of the reasons The Association has been turned into a license to print money is basketball is played all over the world, especially in Europe. Next to football, there's not a more popular team sport on the globe. It's interesting that on the world stage, basketball is second to football. Yet, in... [read more]
The NBA is experiencing a gilded age. Clubs have never been more valuable, television contracts have never been more lucrative, and investors are chomping at the bit to invest in the league. One of the reasons The Association has been turned into a license to print money is basketball is played all over the world, especially in Europe. Next to football, there's not a more popular team sport on the globe. It's interesting that on the world stage, basketball is second to football. Yet, in the United States, it's third behind American football and baseball, but well ahead of MLS (Major League Soccer). Just how popular is basketball overseas? How common is it for a European to buy Cleveland Cavaliers hoops tickets when they plan on traveling to the U.S. for example? Or how about to the Lakers or the Celtics? We know there are leagues in countries like Russia, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Yet, there are also leagues in countries like Slovenia, Luxemburg, Malta, and Montenegro. Those are four of the ten smallest countries in Europe. Slovenia, the largest of the four, is the size of New Jersey. Below, we take a closer look at three leagues that are currently helping to popularize the sport of basketball, and indirectly, its greatest league, the NBA.
The top league in Malta, a country about the size of Lubbock, Texas, is the Powerade League Bank of Valletta Division 1. Their playoffs are scheduled for late March. In one matchup, Cynergi will battle Floriana. In the other, Athleta takes on Bupa. While we're talking about Bupa, in their last regular season game they blew out Hibernians, 118 to 58. It reminds me of the time in November of 2015 when the Golden State Warriors crushed the Memphis Grizzlies, 119 to 69. Marko Todorovic is the league's top scorer. He averaged 27 points a game during the regular season.
You may have seen James Augustine, Kenny Boynton, Jeremy Evans, Cory Higgins, Robbie Hummel, Aaron Jackson, and Jacob Pullen play in college and/or the NBA. Now, you can see them play in Russia. The world's largest country's first tier of professional club basketball is the VTB United League. The league is sponsored by VTB Bank. The VTB was founded in 2008. Its goal is to bring the top clubs of Eastern and Northern Europe into one league. Right now, the VTB contains teams from Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Latvia. Nonetheless, if you win the VTB League you're known as basketball champions of Russia. The VTB's top team is PBC CSKA Moscow. They are nicknamed the 'Red Army.' CSKA players that have also laced them up in the NBA include Andrei Kirilenko, Darius Songaila, Gordan Giriek, Nenad Krsti, and Dragan Tarla. Iceland
Even Iceland, Europe's most sparsely populated country, has a professional b-ball league. The Premier League, officially called the Domino's League, after its sponsor Domino's Pizza, is highest level of competitive basketball played in the Nordic island nation. The league contains teams like Skallagrimur, Snfell, and Njarvik, as well as nine more. Don't worry, there are also teams without tongue-breaking names, like KR, KFI, and IR. My favorite team is Thor Thorl from orlakshoefn. Their starting shooting guard is American Tobin Carberry. He used to play for the LIU Post Pioneers. KR and IR are from Reykjavik. They are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers of the Domino's League. Each team has won 15 league titles-tied for the most all-time. KR has won the last three championships. Prominent American hoopsters that have balled in Iceland's Premier League include Stew Johnson, J'Nathan Bullock, Justin Shouse, and Nick Bradford. Current American players include Atkinson Jeremy, Cedrick Bowen, Aaron Brown, and Myron Dempsey. The league was founded in 1951.
Chicago Fury traveled to Detroit to play 16th-ranked Team NetWork. The Fury came out blazing and went on to defeat the host team by a score of 142-113. Chicago had seven players in double figures: Jarmorris Wilks (6'2''-G, college: East-West) lead the way with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Marvin Lee (6'2''-G-85, college: Emporia St.) notched a double-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds. Leshawn Johnson continued his streak of double-doubles with his fifth of this year adding 17 p... [read more]
Chicago Fury traveled to Detroit to play 16th-ranked Team NetWork. The Fury came out blazing and went on to defeat the host team by a score of 142-113.
Chicago had seven players in double figures: Jarmorris Wilks (6'2''-G, college: East-West) lead the way with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Marvin Lee (6'2''-G-85, college: Emporia St.) notched a double-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds.
Leshawn Johnson continued his streak of double-doubles with his fifth of this year adding 17 points, 13 assists while Leo Baylor (6'3''-PG-86, college: East-West) provided a spark off the bench with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Other top scorers were: Travell Amicks (6'1''-G, college: Purdue-Calumet) with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists; Terell Thomas (6'0''-PG) had 12 points and 5 rebounds; Anthony Harris had 10 points, 9 rebounds and Anthony Knowles (6'5''-F) had 10 points, 8 rebounds for the Fury.
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