Just as Efes did in 2022, the NBA has also had an underdog rise to the fore over the course of the last year.
Last year, Elijah Bryant became the 11th basketball player in history to taste glory in both the NBA and the EuroLeague. He helped Turkish outfit Anadolu Efes sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed, before proceeding to stun some of European basketball's most illustrious names en route to glory. They first stunned tournament favorites Olympiacos in the semifinals, securing a narrow 77-74 victory, before toppling the much fancied Real Madrid in a low-scoring contest two days later.
The heavy hitters, however, returned with a bang this year. With Efes not even qualifying for the postseason and unable to defend their crown, the two teams they vanquished the previous campaign contested the final. it was the Spaniards who would ultimately come out on top, in the final, with the score finishing 79-78.
Just as Efes did in 2022, the NBA has also had an underdog rise to the fore over the course of the last year. The Miami Heat reached the recent NBA playoffs as a wildcard and they had to play not one but two play-in games to even qualify for the postseason. Once they were there though, they would make their presence felt.
Miami Heat Stun Everyone En Route to the Finals
With Jimmy Butler coming in clutch, the Heat first knocked off Giannis and his top-seed Milwaukee bucks in a seven-game thriller in the opening round. They would then defeat the Knicks in the Conference Semifinals, before battling it out with the Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals. It looked as though their fairytale run would come to an end when they surrendered a 3-0 series lead however, they would hold their nerve in the TD Garden showpiece finale, with Jimmy Buckets top scoring as the Heat set up a finals date with the Denver Nuggets.
Ultimately, Nikola Jokic and Co. would have too much for Miami to handle, running out deserved 4-1 winners. However, the Heat earned plenty of plaudits along the way, and rightfully so. The bookies certainly rate their chances of success much higher this season than they ever did last year, with the currently pricing them as the +750 fourth favorites.
While the Heat couldn't add another championship to their collection, the aforementioned Elijah Bryant did exactly that when he helped the Bucks win their first championship in 40 years back in 2021. He followed that up by leading his Anadolu Efes to the EuroLeague the following year, becoming just the second man in history to lift both titles in consecutive seasons. But which other players have won both the EuroLeague and the NBA? Let's take a look.
Bob McAdoo won two NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982 and 1985. He would also win the EuroLeague twice, winning the tournament in back-to-back seasons with Olimpia Milano in 1987 and 1988. McAdoo was a skilled center who is widely considered one of the best basketball players of all time.
Manu Ginobili made a name for himself in EuroLeague before American basketball fans had ever heard of him. He led Virtus Bologna to glory in 2001, before winning an Olympic gold medal with Argentina the following year. That would get the attention of the San Antonio Spurs, a team with which he would win four NBA Championships in 11 years between 2003 and 2014.
Toni Kukoc was a teammate of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and was a crucial cog in the wheel of the Chicago Bulls' famed 'Last Dance' team. He helped the United Center side to a famous threepeat in the late '90s, however, that was nothing new to the Croatian star. He also completed a threepeat in the EuroLeague with Split between 1989 and 1991.
Before ever making it big in the NBA, American Bill Bradley was making waves in Europe, winning the EuroLeague with Olimpia Milano in 1966. He then moved on to the New York Knicks, becoming a two-time NBA Champion in 1970 and 1973.
Rasho Nesterovic was a powerful Slovenian center. He won the EuroLeague with Virtus Bologna in 1998 before helping the Spurs to a second NBA title in three seasons in 2005.
Agile Croatian center Zan Tabak was a teammate of the aforementioned Kukoc and a crucial part of the threepeat-winning Split team. He then added an NBA ring to his collection in 1995 with the Houston Rockets.
Powerful all-rounder Jim Brewer helped the Lakers to NBA glory in 1982. the following year, he would become the first man in history to win the NBA and the EuroLeague in consecutive seasons when he led Cantù to success.
Rodrigue Beaubois is a teammate of Elijah Bryant and he too was part of the Efes team that won the EuroLeague last year. 11 years earlier, he played a minor role as the Dallas Mavericks claimed the NBA Championship.
American point guard Larry Wright tasted EuroLeague success in 1984 with Banco di Roma Virtus. Six years prior, he collected an NBA Championship ring with the Washington Bullets (now Wizards).