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Top-3 rivalries in European club basketball

Walter Tavares Real Madrid FC Barcelona
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

By Yiannis Bouranis and Alexandros Tsakos

Just like in the NBA, European club basketball has its own history of rivalries between clubs, with the ones between domestic league opponents being the most intense.

No match is more important than a “clasico” between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona or the battles between EuroLeague and Greek League giants, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos.

That said, here are the top-3 rivalries in European club basketball:

Real Madrid – FC Barcelona

Throughout the years, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have offered some unforgettable moments that will forever stay in the mind of basketball fans.

Both teams have fought for many Spanish and European titles, being the two most successful teams in the history of Liga Endesa.

They have done the same in the EuroLeague, with many Final-4 appearances, especially in the last 20 seasons, where plenty of European superstars led both teams to glory.

Current NBA star Luka Doncic was the last superstar to lead Real Madrid to the EuroLeague title back in 2018. He was named the MVP of the 2018 EuroLeague Final-4 before making the jump to the NBA.

On the other side, Juan Carlos Navarro was the EuroLeague legend that led FC Barcelona to its latest EuroLeague title in 2010. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have won two and 10 EuroLeague championships, respectively.

For at least half a century, Madrid has been a standard-bearer in European basketball, accumulating a record ten continental titles, based on its dominance in the 1960s.

In general, the two have faced each other 34 times in the EuroLeague, with the Catalans having the edge with 19 wins over the “Whites”, who have claimed 15 games.

Real Madrid has the edge in the ACB playoffs with 40 wins in 78 games. However, FC Barcelona had the upper hand the last time the two teams played for the league title during the 2020-21 season, claiming two victories over the ‘Whites’ to win the Finals’ series of the ACB.

This year, Real Madrid claimed the Spanish SuperCup back in September 12, whereas FC Barcelona triumphed over the “Whites” in the first Clasico of the season in the EuroLeague two weeks ago (93-80).

Panathinaikos – Olympiacos

The Greek derby between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos is one of the most intense rivalries in European club basketball. The two giants are the best clubs in Greece and two of the greatest in the EuroLeague.

Since the early 90s, these two teams have squared off numerous times in the top-tier European club competition. The “Greens” and the “Reds” have faced each other three times in the semifinals (1994, 1995 and 2009).

Both clubs won their first European title in the 90s (Panathinaikos in 1996, Olympiacos a year later). Panathinaikos dominated the first decade of the 21st century, winning four titles (2000, 2002, 2007, 2009) and playing in six Final Fours (2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009).

Between 2010 and 2020, though, Olympiacos came back and became one of the top EuroLeague teams of the decade. The “Reds” played in four Championship Games (2012, 2013, 2015, 2017), winning the title twice (2012, 2013). At the same time, Panathinaikos claimed one title (2011) and made two Final Four appearances (2011, 2012).

Overall, the two EuroLeague powerhouses have combined for nine titles, while Panathinaikos has won the majority of the domestic titles over Olympiacos.

Their rivalry has been intense for several decades, no matter if it refers to the basketball, football or volleyball section of the clubs. This season, the two teams met at Piece and Friendship Stadium on November 22, with Panathinaikos earning the 76-81 victory.

On Thursday, the “Reds” will visit Panathinaikos’ home court for the first Greek Clasico of the EuroLeague season. The “Greens” (4-12) will seek to return to the winning track, after a couple of defeats last week, whereas Olympiacos (11-5) want to win its third straight and maintain a top three push.

Crvena Zvezda – Partizan

Another great rivalry in European club basketball is the one between Crvena Zvezda and Partizan. The Serbian clubs have dominated the domestic scene of basketball, yet their presence is not so stellar in Europe.

The two rivals have combined for 41 domestic titles (Partizan 21, Zvezda 20), with Partizan having won the European championship back in 1992.

Zvezda has been competing in the EuroLeague over the past few years, whereas Partizan is also pursuing a EuroLeague return under legendary head coach Zeljko Obradovic.

Both clubs are well-known for the atmosphere their respective fans create during the game. Just like Panathinaikos – Olympiacos clash, the rivalry is extended in football and other sports.

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