2019 Class of FIBA Hall of Fame: Jiri Zidek
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2019 Class of FIBA Hall of Fame: Jiri Zidek

MIES (Switzerland) - One of the most influential players in Czechoslovakian, European and international basketball, Jiri Zidek is being inducted into the 2019 class of the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Zidek is among eight former players being enshrined into the Hall of Fame alongside Janeth Arcain (Brazil), Margo Dydek (Poland - posthumously), Atanas Golomeev (Bulgaria), Alonzo Mourning (United States), Fabricio Oberto (Argentina), Jose "Piculin" Ortiz (Puerto Rico) and Mohsen Medhat Warda (Egypt). Joining them are coaches Natalia Hejkova (Slovak Republic), Bogdan Tanjevic (Montenegro) and Mou Zuoyun (China - posthumously). They were selected from a list of more than 150 candidates. 

Zidek is widely considered as the best player in Czechoslovakian basketball history and the legacy of the Zidek continues to live on well past his playing days. 

Growing up in Prague, Zidek started with Slavia Prague in 1962 and helped the club to domestic league crowns in 1965, 1966 and 1969. The 1965-66 season also saw the center guide Slavia to the Final of the FIBA European Champions Cup, losing to Simmenthal Milano despite Zidek's 22 points. Three seasons later, Zidek and Slavia won the FIBA European Cup Winners' Cup crown over Dinamo Tbilisi of the Soviet Union. 

 At the national team level, Zidek debuted with the Czechoslovakian senior side at the FIBA EuroBasket 1963 - at 19 years of age. After playing a minor role in his first continental tournament, Zidek tallied 14.0 points a game at EuroBasket 1965 and that figure rose to 14.4 at EuroBasket 1967, where the country finished second, losing to Soviet Union in the Final and Zidek was named to the tournament's All-Star Five. Czechoslovakia followed that with a third place finish at EuroBasket 1969, where Zidek picked up 12.3 points a game. 

A summer later, Czechoslovakia played in their first FIBA Basketball World Cup, grabbing sixth place in Yugoslavia in 1970 as Zidek collected 18.6 points a game. At EuroBasket 1971, Zidek was the second-best scorer of the tournament at 20.4 points per game. Czechoslovakia played at the Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament in 1972, ending an absence dating back to 1960, and Zidek averaged 12.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. A year after playing his final EuroBasket in 1973, Zidek appeared at his second FIBA World Cup in 1974, averaging 18.0 points in his final national team competition. 

Back at the club level, Zidek had moved from Slavia for the 1969-70 season to Dukla Olomouc before returning to Slavia in 1970 and helping the club to three more league crowns in 1971, 1972 and 1974. He was also named as the Czechoslovakian Player of the Year in 1970 and 1972. In 1977, Zidek switched clubs again, moving to Slavia Kosice and playing there for two seasons. And in 2001, he was recognized as the Best Czechoslovakian Player of the 20th Century. Zidek returned to his beloved Slavia Prague in 1985 as coach, where he served in that post until 1990 and then in the 1992-93 and 2003-04 seasons.

Jiri Zidek is not the only Zidek who has made a name for himself in basketball. Son Jiri Zidek Jr., more commonly known as George Zidek, won the US collegiate NCAA crown in 1995 with UCLA and played parts of four seasons in the NBA before returning to Europe. It was there where he helped Zalgiris Kaunas win the EuroLeague title in 1999, becoming the first European to win both the NCAA and EuroLeague trophies. The Zideks are also the only father and son combo to reach a EuroLeague title game and the only combo to both win a European club competition crown.

Jiri Zidek's grandson Jan Zidek is also making a name in the game, having played for the Czech Republic at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016, Division B and then helping the Czechs finish second at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019, Division B to earn promotion to Division A. Jan will follow in his father's footsteps and attend college in the United States, enrolling at Pepperdine University starting in 2019. 

Jan Zidek has a pretty big name to live up to - with Jiri Zidek Sr. being one of the greatest players in Czechoslovakian basketball history.

Name Jiri Zidek
Category of Inductee Player (Center)
Date of birth February 8, 1944
Place of birth Prague, Czechoslovakia
Nationality Czech
Height 6ft 9in (2.06m)
  • Slavia VS Praha (1962-1969)
  • Dukla Olomouc (1969-1970)
  • Slavia VS Praha (1970-1977)
  • Slavis VST Kosice (1977-1979)
  • Czechoslovakia National team (1963-1974)
Club highlights
  • FIBA European Champions Cup for Men silver medalist (1966)
  • FIBA European Champions Cup for Men 4th place (1967)
  • FIBA European Cup Winners' Cup gold medalist (1969)
  • Six-time Czechoslovakian league champion (1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974)
National team highlights
  • FIBA EuroBasket silver medalist (1967)
  • FIBA EuroBasket bronze medalist (1969)
  • Participated in two FIBA Basketball World Cups (1970, 1974)
  • Participated in Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament (1972)
Individual highlights
  • EuroLeague Finals Top Scorer (1966)
  • Two-time selection in FIBA All-Star Games (1966, 1967)
  • FIBA Saporta Cup Finals Top Scorer (1968)
  • Two-time Czechoslovakia Player of the Year (1970, 1972) 
  • Best Czechoslovak Player of the 20th Century (2001)
  • Czechoslovak League all-time leading scorer

The 2019 Class will be enshrined into FIBA's Hall of Fame during a special ceremony taking place in Beijing, China, on August 30, on the eve of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 tipping off.