Why you need to be watching the Basketball Champions League this season

Why you need to be watching the Basketball Champions League this season

As the league enters its third season, we look at some of the reasons why the Basketball Champions League is this year’s new must-watch sport

Do you remember the thrill you first got when discovering a new sport, or even a new league in a sport you already watch? There’s something special about becoming the first of your friends to discover the Chinese Super League, for example, or the first to develop a strong interest in handball or swimming beyond the Olympics and World Championships. It gives you something to show off about, sure, but to say that’s the only benefit would be to ignore the excitement that comes from watching the competition: in short, the primary reason you got into it. This year, it’s time to make the Basketball Champions League your main interest, and here’s why:

It’s a young competition

The Basketball Champions League is entering its third season, which means it’s still discovering its best self. The first few years of a competition can be a time for experimentation; for quirks you might look back on years later and marvel at a simpler time. The Champions League second group stage. Hockey-style penalties in Major League Soccer. These are relics from the early years of the competitions which feel like distant memories. The Basketball Champions League comprises four groups of eight teams, rather than the eight groups of four in its football namesake, playing down to the Final Four showpiece. 2018’s champions were AEK Athens, who beat AS Monaco in the final, but seven different teams have made the final four so far. No dynasties here.

The players have interesting stories

By and large, NBA players will have gone down the same route to play at that level: high-level achievements at (probably an American) college, followed by selection in the draft and an immediate or eventual passage into a starting berth. There are exceptions, sure, but this is predominantly what you’re playing with. The Basketball Champions League, meanwhile, has folks who have taken very different paths to get to where they are. Some will have made it as far as the NBA draft only to go undrafted. Some will have spent a short time at the highest level in the states. But others might be journeyman pros or late bloomers, who for whatever reason never got their big break as teenagers but have found success later in life.

You get introduced to unlikely sporting cities

When you think about European sporting legacies, a few of the same cities will continually crop up. Manchester has its two football teams, Basketball EuroLeague cities like Barcelona and Athens have football clubs in top UEFA competitions, and Paris is one of a handful of cities with top sides in both football and rugby union. The Basketball Champions League, however, is a chance for other cities to shine. Ever see those small-town French cycling fans pack the streets whenever the Tour de France is passing through? You just need to look at that to understand how, just because a city doesn’t have an elite team, it doesn’t mean its people aren’t sports mad. This season’s competition might have big-city teams like AEK Athens and Besiktas, but elsewhere? How many times are you likely to be able to watch clubs from places like Avellino or Ludwingsburg compete for the big bucks? There’s nothing like small- town fans having live sport come their way.