The NBA is the best league in the world when it comes to teams and basketball quality. There is no discussion about it. The sheer star power, organization, and impact that brings fans from all over the world is unmatchable. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing teams and players outside the NBA. The Euroleague, as the second-best basketball league in the world, has had its share of great teams thought its history. One of the best was the Barcelona team in the 2002-2003 season.
We recently had Tyrone Ellis as a guest on our podcast. He shared his first-hand experience of playing in Europe and, more specifically, the Spanish ACB league, where he had to face the notorious Barcelona team while playing for Genova.
“The first game we played against Barcelona. And I didn’t know who Navarro was; I didn’t know who Bodiroga was, Fucka, Jasikevicius, the list goes on and on. I had no idea about these guys. I’m like, I don’t care about Navarro. Navarro has to guard me. But that’s how ignorant I was to the fact that these guys are making a ton of money, millions of dollars. They are really, really good, and they are so fundamentally sound. So I was just quick, athletic, and I could shoot, but these guys thought the game.”Tyrone Ellis, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
That Barcelona team dominated Europe that year, winning the Euroleague championship, ACB championship, and the Supercup. One of the best players to never play in the NBA, Dejan Bodiroga, led them in scoring. Juan Carlos Navarro was Steph Curry before Curry, scoring from anywhere on the court. Jasikevicius was holding down the point guard position, perfectly orchestrating the team. That’s why today he is the head coach of Barcelona. They had a pretty good supporting cast with names like Gregor Fucka, Roberto Duenas, Rodrigo De La Fuente, a young Anderson Varejao, and others.
“I’m dealing with an NBA team…This team could have been in the NBA, competing for a playoff spot. That’s how good they were.”Tyrone Ellis, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
Tyrone Ellis,1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
The question arises. Could have this Barcelona team play in the NBA and actually compete for a playoff spot? It is hard to tell because of the collision of two very different playstyles. The NBA is based on athleticism and individual quality, while the Euroleague shifts its focus on team plays, running sets, and playing fundamental basketball. Every style has its charms and advantages, but as we have seen in the matchups between NBA teams and European teams through history, the NBA team prevails with their sheer quality most of the time.
In my opinion, this Barcelona team definitely could have played and competed against a lot of teams in the NBA, but it is hard to see them winning as much as they did in Europe. Still, it is a major compliment to consider them competing in the NBA, as they are possibly the best team in history outside of the NBA.