Turkey, a nation known for its rich history and diverse culture, has also made significant progress in the world of basketball. Over the years, Turkish basketball has grown exponentially, with the local league emerging as one of Europe’s most competitive and interesting leagues. Let’s find out why!
The rise of Turkish basketball
Basketball was first played in Turkey in 1904 at Robert College. Seven years later, in 1911, at Galatasaray High School, an American physical education teacher, Ahmet Robenson, introduced the sport to his students. Robenson, also later became president of Galatasaray basketball club.
Even tho the sport was introduced in the country in 1904, the sport gained real momentum in the 1980s and 1990s. It was 1976 when the Turkish second-division club struggled financially and was taken over by the Anadolu Group. The club was named Efes Pielsen as it referred to one of the beer brands of the company. After being unbeaten during the first season, Efes guaranteed promotion to the Turkish Basketball Super League. Already during the first season, they wrote the club in bold to the Turkish sports history books as they won the league in their first year. The rest is history — 16 times Turkish Super League, 12 times Turkish Cup, 13 times Turkish Presidental Cup, and 2 times Euroleague champion.
Their main rival Fenerbahçe was founded way before, initially in 1913. Due to the Balkan Wars and World War I the basketball club wasn’t active until 1944 when the sport established itself in Turkey. The club won the Istanbul Basketball League in 1954–55, 1955–56, and 1956–57. On February 5, 1955, which was the first basketball game broadcast live on radio in Turkey, Yellow Legacy celebrated their first championship as they defeated their rivals Galatasaray 55–47.
They remained a strong team in the rest of the 1960s but didn’t have the hoped success on the court, especially in the 70s and 80s. Those decades were dominated by the likes of the previously mentioned Efes Pilsen and the Turkish industrial group owned Eczacıbaşı, who won most of the league titles. The reason was simple — Efes Pilsen and Eczacıbaşı belonged to big corporations with huge financial support. Clubs with traditions, such as Fenerbahçe, had difficulties competing for signing the best players of the country and providing the support needed outside of the court. Thanks to the league’s competitiveness, Turkish basketball began attracting top talent from around the world.
Fenerbahçe finished the league leader three times with stars such as Erman Kunter, Aytek Gürkan, Can Sonat, Ferhat Oktay, Pete Williams, and Larry Richard in the seasons 1984–85, 1987–88 and 1989–90, but was eliminated in the playoffs. Erman Kunter broke the record by scoring 153 points in a game (watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttOEa58sslQ) of the 1987–1988 season, in which the Yellow-navy blues team beat Hilalspor 175–101. Fenerbahçe did reach the Turkish League championship in 1991 which the fans were eagerly waiting for. Levent Topsakal, Larry Richard, Hüsnü Çakırgil, and head coach Çetin Yılmaz led Fenerbahçe to the Turkish League title over Tofaş.
The early 2000s went with limited success. In the summer of 2006, the basketball club signed a sponsorship deal with Ülker, Turkish food, and beverage company, to form Fenerbahçe Ülker. After the sponsorship agreement, Fenerbahçe dominated the Turkish League and became the league champion two times in a row after 16 years. After losing the Turkish League championship to Efes Pilsen in the 2008–09 season, in closely contested playoff finals, Fenerbahçe became Turkish League champions again in the 2009–10 season, this time by defeating Efes Pilsen in the finals 4–2. With new head coach Neven Spahija, Fenerbahçe Ülker continued their domination in the Turkish League, winning both the Turkish Cup and the Turkish League, over long-time rivals Beşiktaş and Galatasaray.
It’s fair to say that the establishment of professional clubs such as Fenerbahçe and Anadolu Efes, and increased attention from the fans, fueled the growth of Turkish basketball.
The Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL)
The Turkish Basketball Super League, known as the BSL, is the top professional basketball league in Turkey. Founded in 1966, the league has seen remarkable development and now stands as one of the biggest, most competitive, and most entertaining basketball leagues in Europe. Each season, a selected number of teams compete for the championship, causing intense rivalries and real fandom.
Over 40% of the local league supporters are living in Istanbul, where Fenerbahçe, Anadolu Efes, Galatasaray, and Besiktas are situated. As for Scorestars, we have over 90% of male users, the Turkish basketball is 40% followed by female supporters. The average fan of the Turkish Basketball Super League is 35–45 years old (40%), following 25–34 years old supporters by 30%, and 18–24 years old fans by also 30%. Basketball is the second followed sport in the country with 57% of the citizens stating they are following the local league or the Turkish national team.
It’s thrilling to know that 65% of the local sports fans are interested in NFT investments which sets a strong foundation for Scorestars' fit to the market. From the FIBA — Nielsen Sports Interest Survey it came out that Turkey is the second country with the largest basketball fan base per capita. Let that sink in…
More interesting facts about the BSL:
- The BSL is known for its high-scoring games, with an average total score surpassing 160 points per game.
- The BSL is characterized by closely contested matches, with numerous games being decided by a few points or even heading into overtime. The league’s competitive nature keeps fans intrigued.
- The BSL has attracted talented players such as Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Linas Kleiza, Bogdan Bogdanović, Nando De Colo, Shane Larkin, Will Clyburn, Petar Naumoski, Darius Songaila, Deron Williams, Allen Iverson, and many more. This international mix adds to the league’s level and raises its profile on the global stage.
- Turkish basketball has produced a fair share of NBA players. In a total of ca 20 players have played in the strongest league in the world.
- Over the years, the Turkish basketball league’s popularity has grown significantly, leading to higher and higher attendance numbers at games. Turkish basketball fans are known for their passionate support, creating an electrifying atmosphere in the arenas. The rivalry between Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahçe is considered to be the biggest derby game in European basketball.
- Turkish basketball clubs actively participate in prestigious international European leagues, such as the EuroLeague and the FIBA Champions League. Turkish teams consistently belong among the top clubs there.
Turkish basketball and the Turkish Basketball Super League have come a long way, evolving into a basketball country that is much respected on the international stage. The league’s competitiveness, the presence of international stars, and the development of homegrown talent have all contributed to its success. With a passionate fan base, the future of Turkish basketball and the BSL looks promising. We are happy to be part of it and welcome all Turkish basketball fans to the Scorestars.io platform!
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