2016-17 Team Profile: Fenerbahce Istanbul
It was the best-ever Euroleague campaign for Fenerbahce Istanbul, one in which it dominated throughout and was only 1.9 seconds away from lifting its first continental crown. Fenerbahce stormed through the regular season, winning six of its first seven games before winning the group with an 8-2 record. Behind strong play from Jan Vesely, Luigi Datome and Bogdan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce opened the Top 16 with seven consecutive wins and its 10-1 record four weeks later was good enough to claim first place and home-court advantage for the playoffs with three games to go. Despite losing Vesely for that crucial stretch of the season, Fenerbahce was carried by Ekpe Udoh as it swept the playoff series against outgoing champion Real Madrid and made its second consecutive Euroleague Final Four. There, in Berlin, Fenerbahce played a pair of overtime games, beating Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz 88-77 in the semifinals, and rallying from 21-point deficit to take the lead in the last minute of its first-ever championship game. But Victor Khryapa and CSKA Moscow managed to force overtime and eventually go on to win the game and the title.
Founded in 1907, Fenerbahce opened its doors to basketball seven years later, but waited decades until it claimed its first titles. Fenerbahce was the Turkish national champion in 1957, 1959 and 1965 before the Turkish League was formally founded in 1966. Fener also made Euroleague appearances each year following the titles, but a quarter-century passed before club experienced more success. Fenerbahce beat Tofas for the 1991 Turkish League title, returned to the Turkish League finals in 1992, 1993 and 1995 and finished third in 1998 to qualify for the Euroleague. With a strong team featuring Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Marko Milic, Ibrahim Kutluay and the late Conrad McRae, Fenerbahce advanced to the playoff eighthfinals before losing to Real Madrid. The club reached the Korac Cup quarterfinals in 1996 and 2001 and ranked fourth in the 2005 FIBA Europe League, but it wasn't until the summer of 2006 that the team became a European powerhouse. That's when Fenerbahce merged with Ulker, one of the winningest clubs in Turkish basketball history, which had won four Turkish League titles between 1995 and 2006 with Harun Erdenay, Ibrahim Kutluay, Michael Anderson, Orhun Ene, Mirsad Turkcan and Serkan Erdogan among its many stars. Ulker made the Top 16 for five consecutive seasons between 2002 and 2006, beating all the best European teams in the process, and in the process reached the 2005 Euroleague playoffs where it lost to CSKA Moscow. In the first two years of the new Fenerbahce Ulker, the team won back-to-back Turkish League titles and qualified to the Euroleague playoffs in 2008. Emir Preldzic, Turkcan, Omer Onan and Roko Ukic helped Fenerbahce win consecutive Turkish League and Cup doubles in 2010 and 2011, and the club won another Cup title in 2013. With the arrival of legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic came another Turkish championship in 2014, and a year later Fenerbahce made history by reaching its first-ever Euroleague Final Four. However, its memorable run was halted in the semifinals by eventual champion Real Madrid before Fenerbahce finished the Final Four in fourth place. But if that turned out to be a title free campaign, Fenerbahce made it all up with another domestic double last season. Fenerbahce won the Turkish Cup on a Bogdan Bogdanovic buzzer-beating triple in a thrilling final against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and in the Turkish playoffs it ousted archrival Galatasaray 3-1 in the semifinals before beating Anadolu Efes Istanbul 4-2 in the best-of-seven final series to win its second crown in three years.
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