The ABA League, renamed to the ABA League First Division in 2017, commonly known as the Adriatic League First Division, is the 1st-tier regional men's professional basketball league that originally featured clubs from the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia). Due to sponsorship reasons, the league was also known as the Goodyear League from 2001 to 2006, and as the NLB League from 2006 to 2011.
ABA League JTD logo
|Country|| Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Number of teams||12|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||ABA League Second Division|
|Supercup||ABA League Supercup|
FIBA Europe Cup
|Current champions|| Crvena zvezda |
|Most championships|| Partizan|
|TV partners||Arena Sport, O2.TV|
The league coexists alongside scaled-down national leagues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. All but one of Adriatic League clubs join their country's own competitions in late spring after the Adriatic League regular season and post-season have been completed. In the past, the league has also consisted of clubs from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Israel that received wild card invitations.
The Adriatic League is a private venture, founded in 2001 and run until 2015 by the Sidro, a Slovenian limited liability company. Since 2015, the league has been operated by ABA League JTD, a Zagreb-based general partnership for organizing sports competitions. Adriatic Basketball Association is the body that organizes the league and is a full member of ULEB, as well as a voting member of Euroleague Basketball's board.
The formation of the Adriatic League has inspired similar regional leagues in Europe such as the Baltic Basketball League (est. 2004), Central European Basketball League (2008–2010), Balkan International Basketball League (est. 2008), and Alpe Adria Cup (est. 2015).
At various points throughout mid-to-late 1990s, in the years following the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia and ensuing Yugoslav Wars, different basketball administrators from the newly independent Balkan states floated and informally discussed the idea of re-assembling a joint basketball competition to fill the void left by the dissolution of the former Yugoslav Basketball League whose last season was 1991–92.
However, no concrete action towards that end was taken before the summer 2000 ULEB-supported creation of Euroleague Basketball Company under the leadership of Jordi Bertomeu that immediately confronted FIBA Europe, then proceeded to take a handful of top European clubs into its new competition for the 2000–01 season thereby opening an organizational split in European club basketball. During the 2000–01 split in the continent's top club competition, local Balkan basketball administrators from the ULEB-affiliated clubs Cibona, Olimpija, and Budućnost (that already competed in this new 'breakaway' Euroleague competition) shifted the discussions of creating a regional Balkan-wide basketball league into higher gear.
On the public relations front, Adriatic League was met with strong and mixed reactions. Though many hailed it as an important step for the development of club basketball in the Balkans region, many others felt that it brings no new quality and that it's not worth dismantling three domestic leagues. There was a lot of negative reaction from political circles, especially in Croatia, with even TV panel discussions being broadcast on Croatian state television. A very vociferous opinion in the country saw the league's formation as a political attempt to reinstate Yugoslavia. The league organizers for their part did their best to appease the Croatian public with statements such as the one delivered by Radovan Lorbek in Slobodna Dalmacija in September 2001:
|“||This is not a Yugoslav league, and it will never become a Yugoslav league. The Adriatic League has no clubs from Serbia and Macedonia, therefore the Adriatic League and Yugoslav league are not the same thing.||”|
Ten years later, in a 2011 interview for the Serbian newspaper Press, Roman Lisac explained the league's behind the scenes strategy during its nascent stages was actually quite different:
|“||I'm convinced the league would've never been able to survive without Serbian clubs. Getting Crvena zvezda and Partizan to join the league was something that we worked on from day one. However, the situation ten years ago was not that simple. Too much antagonistic post-war politics was still all around us, and it made our task all the more difficult. Everything that smelled of old Yugoslavia caused a lot of resistance both in Croatia and in Serbia. I repeat, the idea of having both Crvena zvezda and Partizan in the league was there from the very beginning, but we avoided talking about it publicly because of politics.||”|
On 28 September 2001, the league announced a five-year sponsorship deal with Slovenian company Sava Tires from Kranj, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The deal also included naming rights, hence from 2001 until 2006, the competition was known as the Goodyear League.
With twelve clubs taking part in the inaugural 2001–02 season, the competition commenced in fall 2001 with four teams from Slovenia, four teams from Croatia, three teams from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one team from FR Yugoslavia. The very first game was contested in Ljubljana between Olimpija and Široki on Saturday, 29 September 2001 at 5:30pm.
Though the competition purported to gather the strongest sides from former Yugoslavia, as mentioned, teams from Serbia were noticeably absent, particularly Belgrade powerhouses and biggest regional crowd draws Partizan and Crvena zvezda. In addition to no clubs from Serbia proper, the league had no Serb-dominated clubs from Bosnia-Herzegovina either. Since the league founders mostly avoided talking about the issue due to fears of media backlash, the fact that no invitations were extended to Serbian clubs was generally explained through security issues due to organizers' fears of crowd trouble if Croatian and Serbian clubs were to start playing again in the same competition. Then in early February 2002, the public got a preview of just that when Cibona and Partizan met in Zagreb as part of that season's EuroLeague group stage. In a nationalistically charged and incident-filled encounter, Croatian fans peppered the Partizan players with rocks, flares, and even ceramic tiles before physically assaulting Partizan head coach Duško Vujošević in the guest team dressing room after the game.
The Adriatic League debut season was marked by dwindling attendances and lukewarm media support. Still the league did receive a bit of a shot in the arm on 24 February 2002, when its managing body ABA got accepted as full member of ULEB.
For the 2002–03 season, the league remained at the total number of 12 teams, while it went through major re-tooling internally. By the time season started, four teams dropped out (Sloboda Dita, Budućnost, Triglav, and Geoplin Slovan) to be replaced by: Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, Crvena zvezda (the first team from Serbia in the competition), the Bosnian outfit KK Borac, and Croatian club KK Zagreb.
It was important for the league's long term business to negotiate acceptable terms for the Serbian clubs to join the competition. To that end, Lorbek and Lisac went to Belgrade in early April 2002 with an offer of taking in three clubs from FR Yugoslavia for the Adriatic League's 2002–03 season. The offer was flatly rejected initially by the representatives of five YUBA Liga clubs – Partizan, Crvena zvezda, Hemofarm, FMP, and Budućnost – as their unified platform was either all five or nothing. Taking in all five required expanding the league to 14 teams, which was something the league organizers weren't prepared to do due to the associated increase in operating costs. The negotiated agreement thus fell through for the time being. However, it didn't take long for dents to appear in the unified front put forth by five YUBA league clubs – in May 2002 Crvena zvezda's management (three businessmen close to the ruling Democratic Party in Serbia: Živorad Anđelković, Igor Žeželj, and Goran Vesić) hired Zmago Sagadin to be the club's new general manager – and soon after, in June 2002, the club broke the ranks by negotiating terms on its own thus agreeing to join the Adriatic League for the 2002–03 season.
All-time participants (2001–2019)Edit
The following is a list of clubs who have played in the Adriatic League at any time since its formation in 2001 to the current season. A total of 37 teams from 10 countries have played in the League.
|2D||Played in the Second Division|
|Restricted||Teams out of the Adriatic area|
|Bold||Teams playing in the 2018–19 season|
|R||Regular season champions|
|Borac Banja Luka||–||11th||13th||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||2||11th|
|Maccabi Tel Aviv||–||2nd||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||1stR||–||–||–||Restricted||2||1st|
As of the 2013–14 season the league comprises a 26-game regular season, with the top 4 sides making the play-offs.
From 2002 through 2004, four teams qualified, and the playoffs were termed the "Final Four"; starting in 2005, eight teams advanced to the "Final Eight" round. All playoff rounds consist of one-off knockout matches, unusual among European leagues. However, since all Adriatic League clubs play in domestic leagues at the same time, and many also play in the EuroLeague, the current format has the virtue of limiting fixture congestion for the playoff sides.
In 2017, the ABA League Second Division was created. The last qualified team from ABA League would be relegated to the Second Division and replaced by the winner of this one.
Current clubs (2018–19)Edit
|Crvena Zvezda||Mega Bemax||Cedevita||Igokea|
|Partizan NIS||Mornar Bar||Zadar||Petrol Olimpija|
Titles by clubEdit
|1.||Partizan||6||2||2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13|
|2.||Crvena zvezda||4||2||2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2018–19|
Titles by countryEdit
|2.||Serbia and Montenegro||3||2|
Adriatic League recordsEdit
- Highest Index Ratings in a Game
- Most Points in a Game
- Most Two Point Field Goals Made in a Game
- Most Three Point Field Goals Made in a Game
- Most Free Throws Made in a Game
- Most Rebounds in a Game
- Most Assists in a Game
- Most Steals in a Game
- Most Blocks in a Game
- Most Turnovers in a Game
- Longest winning streak
- Longest losing streak
- Biggest Winning Margin
- Most Won Games in a Season
- Most Lost Games in a Season
- Most Points scored in a Season
- Lowest Scored Points in a Season
|Points||Marin Rozić ||2,749|
|Assists||Nebojša Joksimović ||831|
|Index Ratings||Todor Gečevski||3,212|
|Games Played||Marin Rozić ||356|
Well-known basketball players who have played in the Adriatic League include:
- Team is suspended until 2022.
- Mitrović: Bogosavljev je dao ideju;Press, 11 July 2011
- Jadranska liga ili samoubistvo pod obručima;NSPM, 31 December 2008
- Deset godina NLB lige: Kako je Partizan gurnut u Jadran;Press, 15 July 2011
- Bibić, Milorad (28 Septembar 2001). "Jadranska liga donosi košarkašku REVOLUCIJU!". Slobodna Dalmacija. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2019. Check date values in:
- Lisac: Jadranska liga bi propala bez Srba;Press, 23 July 2011
- Deset godina NLB lige: Huligani odložili ulazak Partizana;Press, 12 July 2011
- Deset godina Jadranske lige: Košarka nas je održala;Press, 10 July 2011
- Deset godina NLB lige: Zvezdin izlazak na Jadran;Press, 13 July 2011
- "ADRIATIC LEAGUE – Players showing off World Cup credentials". FIBA. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "ABA League Games / Schedule (2018-2019)". Eurobasket.com. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- "ABA League – interesting facts and figures". abaliga.com. Archived from the original on 2 October 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.