How successful have Gulf basketball clubs been at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup?
MANAMA (Bahrain) - From 20-27 April in Manama, top clubs from the Gulf region will be playing for a chance at qualifying their nations towards a spot at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019. The Gulf are one of the relatively smaller regions in Asia, but that hasn’t kept them from being among the most active and successful in the history of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
The Gulf Basketball Association (GBA) has had a representative at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup for all editions with only 3 exceptions in 1988, 2012, and 2018. Those years aside, the region has consistently fed quality teams to the event ever since.
The mid 2000s from ’03 to ’08 was the peak of Gulf basketball in the Champions Cup with no less than 3 qualified teams aside from in 2007 and even had 4 representatives in ’04 and ’08. Bahrain (6 appearances), Kuwait (6 appearance), United Arab Emirates (7 appearances), and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (9 appearances) have all played a large part to contribute towards GBA’s history at the Champions Cup but it has regularly been Qatar (14 appearances) as the face of the region in this competition.
Domination in the new millennium
As mentioned, the early 2000s was a good era for GBA basketball in the Champions Cup. Not only was it a time where teams from the region were consistently participating in the event, they were also winning on a regular basis.
In the span of 5 years from ’01 to ’05, three of the 5 champions were from the Gulf region. For 9 straight seasons from ’00 to ’09, at least one team from the Gulf were among the top 3 finishers from the competition. In 6 of those seasons, there would be at least one GBA club in the finals.
The Greatest from the Gulf
Among the storied teams from the Gulf, Kazma from Kuwait were the first team ever with a top 3 finish at back-to-back tournaments in 1990 and 1992.
However, it wasn’t until the aforementioned rise of Gulf basketball at the Champions Cup in the year 2000 before the region would get its first representative to reach the finals by Al-Ittihad. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia representative club made their first Champions Cup appearance in 1999 and made it all the way to the 3rd place game only to suffer a tough loss. That would be the start of a glorious three-year run for Al-Ittihad, winning the title in 2001 and making three straight finals appearances from ’00 to ’02.
While Al-Ittihad became the first Gulf team to win the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, their rise to glory also synchronized along with friendly neighbors, Al-Rayyan from Qatar.
Al-Rayyan were left disappointed at their first Champions Cup appearance back in 2000, failing to make it out of the group stages. They stormed back with a purpose in the following season, only to suffer a heartbreaking 103-101 overtime loss to Al-Ittihad in the championship game. From that point on, Al-Rayyan turned into one of the most successful clubs in the FIBA Asia Champions.
The Qatari franchise exacted their revenge over Al-Ittihad in the subsequent year with a 92-78 win in the title game, starting a string of 11 consecutive top 4 finishes. After winning the title once again in 2005, Al-Rayyan has held claim to owning the second most amount of FIBA Asia Champions Cup titles. With five runners-up finishes and four seasons finishing at third place, there is no doubt that Al-Rayyan are one of the greatest clubs in Qatar and in the history of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup as well.
Which team will be next to ascend towards the top of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup from the Gulf region?