Euroleague (EL) is the highest level and most important professional
basketball competition in Europe, with teams from twelve different
European countries. The competition is operated by ULEB, a Europe-wide
consortium of leading professional basketball leagues. Asian clubs from
Israel and Turkey are also part of the system.
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.
Contracts with ULEB.
In addition, the winner of the previous season's Eurocup receives a
For example, two 2007-08 domestic champions from ULEB member countries
did not compete in the 2008-09 Euroleague—Zadar (Croatia) and Hapoel
Holon (Israel). Zadar played in the second-level Eurocup in 2008-09.
Hapoel Holon, however, did not compete in any of the three European
continental club competitions—not even the third-tier EuroChallenge
(which is run by FIBA Europe instead of ULEB).
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, including 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 basketball competitions: the FIBA Suproleague
(known as the FIBA Euroleague up to that point) and the brand new ULEB
The rift in European club basketball initially
showed no signs of letting up. Top clubs were also split between the
two leagues: Panathinaikos, Maccabi Tel Aviv, CSKA Moscow and Efes
Pilsen stayed with FIBA, while Olympiacos Piraeus, Kinder Bologna, Real
Madrid, FC Barcelona, Baskonia and Benetton Treviso joined ULEB.
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
2000/2001 season joined it as well.
In essence, the authority in European basketball was
divided over club-country lines. FIBA stayed in charge of national team
competitions (like the European Championships, World Championships, and
the Olympics) while ULEB took over the professional club competitions.
From that point on, FIBA's Korac 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.