Euroleague Basketball, commonly known as the Euroleague, is the highest level tier and most important professional club basketball competition in Europe, with teams from up to 18 different countries, members of FIBA Europe. For sponsorship reasons, for five seasons starting with 2010-2011, it will be named Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The competition is operated by ULEB, a Europe-wide consortium of leading professional basketball leagues. During the season, the Euroleague is broadcast on television in 191 countries and can be seen by up to 245 million (800 million via satellite) households weekly in China. It is as well being nationally televised in the United States and Canada on NBA TV and available online through ESPN3. The Euroleague Final Four is broadcast on television in 197 countries.
The league usually, but not always, includes domestic champions from the leading countries. Depending on the country, places in the Euroleague may be awarded on the basis of:
Performance in the previous season's domestic league.
Performance over the previous two or three domestic seasons.
Starting with the 2009–10 season, the entrance criteria changed:
Thirteen clubs, chosen via a formula based on competitive performance, television revenues, and home attendance, receive "A Licenses", giving them automatic entry into the Euroleague regular season phase. A Licenses are awarded for three years, meaning that the next adjustment of A Licenses will not take place until 2012–13.
Eight clubs receive one-year "B Licenses" into the Euroleague regular season. Seven of them are directly based on the ranking of the domestic league in which the club competes. The eighth is a three-year "wild card" license based on similar factors to the A Licenses; the first such license was awarded to ASVEL Basket of France.
The winner of the previous year's Eurocup receives a one-year "C License" into the Euroleague regular season. If the club qualifies for a direct B License into the regular season via its domestic league, the C License will be awarded to the club not already qualified for the regular season that is highest on the Euroleague entry list.
Eight other clubs receive one-year "B Licenses" into the Euroleague qualifying rounds, with two advancing into the regular season.
On July 26, 2010, Turkish Airlines and Euroleague Basketball announced a €15 million euros strategic agreement to sponsor the top European basketball competition across the globe. According to the agreement, starting with the 2010-11 season, the top European competition will be named Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball. Similarly, the Euroleague Final Four will be named the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, whereby the new league title will appear in all media accordingly. This title partnership will run for five seasons, with the option of extending it to an additional five.
Since the 2009–10 season, the Euroleague's first phase has been the Qualifying Rounds, which involve eight clubs bracketed into a knockout tournament consisting of two-legged matches. The four survivors of the First Qualifying Round are paired against one another for the Second Qualifying Round, with the two winners continuing in the Euroleague. All losing clubs in the Qualifying Rounds parachute into ULEB's second-tier Eurocup.
The next phase is the Regular Season, in which 24 teams participate; from 2009–10, the participants will include 22 clubs automatically entered into the Regular Season plus the two Qualifying Round winners. Each team plays two games (home-and-away) against every other team in its group. At the end of the Regular Season, the field is cut from 24 to 16. Before 2008–09, the teams were divided into three groups of eight teams each, with the top five teams in each group plus the top sixth-place finisher advancing. Now, the Regular Season involves four groups with six teams each, with the first four teams in each group advancing.
The second phase, known as the Top 16, then begins, featuring the 16 survivors of the Regular Season, drawn into four-team groups. As in the Regular Season, each Top 16 group is contested in a double round-robin format.
The third phase, the Quarterfinal round, has been played since the 2004-05 season. Before, only the group winners advanced to the Euroleague Final Four (see below). Now, the first- and second-place teams from each group advance. In the quarterfinal round, the first-place team from each group is matched against a second-place team from another group in a playoff series. Through the 2007-08 season, the series was best-of-three, and expanded to best-of-five for 2008-09. Home advantage in the series goes to the first-place team.
The Final Four, held at a predetermined site, features the winners of the four quarterfinal series in one-off knockout matches. The semifinal losers play for third place; the winners play for the championship.
Effective as of the 2012-13 season, Euroleague clubs must host their home matches in arenas that have a seating capacity of at least 10,000 people. In 2008, ULEB voted to increase the arena seating requirement to 10,000 within 4 years time in order to force clubs to move into and/or build bigger arenas. This was done in hopes of increasing revenues through more ticket sales.
The Euroleague (or historically called, the European Champions' Cup) was originally established by FIBA and it operated under its umbrella from 1958 until the summer of 2000, concluding with the 1999-2000 season. That was when ULEB, short for the Union of European Leagues of Basketball, was created by the 24 richest club teams, most of them from Spain, Italy and Greece.
Amazingly, FIBA had never trademarked the "Euroleague" name and ULEB simply used it without any legal ramifications because FIBA had no legal recourse to do anything about it, so they had to find a new name for their league. Thus, the following 2000-2001 season started with 2 separate top European professional club basketball competitions: the FIBA SuproLeague (previously known as the FIBA Euroleague) and the brand new ULEB Euroleague.
In May 2001, Europe had two continental champions, Maccabi of the FIBA SuproLeague and Kinder Bologna of the ULEB Euroleague. The leaders of both organizations realized the need to come up with a new single competition. Negotiating from the position of strength, ULEB dictated proceedings and FIBA essentially had no choice but to agree to their terms. As a result, the Euroleague was fully integrated under ULEB's umbrella and teams that competed in the FIBA SuproLeague during the 2000–01 season joined it as well.
In essence, the authority in European professional club basketball was divided over club-country lines. FIBA stayed in charge of national team competitions (like the EuroBasket, the FIBA World Championship, and Summer Olympics Basketball), while ULEB took over the European professional club competitions. From that point on, FIBA's Korać Cup and Saporta Cup competitions lasted only one more season before folding, which was when ULEB launched the ULEB Cup, now known as the Eurocup.
The following is a list of games between NBA and Euroleague teams, since the Euroleague stopped being run by FIBA Europe and began working in conjunction with ULEB (the modern era Euroleague format). The list includes only games in which NBA clubs have played against teams that participated in that season's Euroleague competition. The games that take place outside of the United States and/or Canada are played under a combination of mixed NBA and FIBA rules with 2 NBA refs and 1 ULEB ref, while all games played in the United States and/or Canada are played under NBA rules only and with 3 NBA refs.
NBA teams have an overall record of 36-7 against the Euroleague teams.
NBA teams have a record of 27-2 when playing the games at home, under NBA rules, and with three NBA refs.
NBA teams have a record of 9-5 when playing the games away, under a combination of mixed NBA and FIBA rules, and with two NBA refs and one FIBA ref.
The following is a list of games that have been played between the defending champions of the NBA and the defending champions of the Euroleague. The games that take place outside of the United States and/or Canada are played under a combination of mixed NBA and FIBA rules with 2 NBA refs and 1 ULEB ref, while all games played in the United States and/or Canada are played under NBA rules only and with 3 NBA refs.
During the 1970s, Pallacanestro Varese, then competing under sponsorship names Ignis and later on Mobilgirgi and Emerson, reached all 10 finals. These consecutive final matches (of which it won five) were the only ones ever reached by this club.
Athens is the only city, from which three different clubs Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and AEK have participated in Euroleague finals.