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The day Djordjevic and Marciulionis put on a EuroBasket show for the ages

VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - There have been some colossal games over the years in international basketball but no matter how significant they were, or how spectacular players have been, memories of those contests have faded with each passing year.

With the basketball action having been stopped in recent weeks by the coronavirus pandemic, we've had some time to look back and remember just how special those games were.

One game that's certainly worth going back to watch is the FIBA EuroBasket 1995 Final between Yugoslavia and Lithuania. This game is notable for numerous reasons.

The performance of Sasha Djordjevic, the man who served as coach of Serbia's national team the past several years before stepping down after the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, was out of this world.

A tweet that I spotted this week jarred me, pointing out that Djordjevic had lit it up and scored 41 points. He was 9-of-12 from three-point range.

There are players to have scored more points in a EuroBasket game but in a Final, no one has topped what Djordjevic did that day in Athens, Greece.

Looking back at the FIBA Archive, in 1957, Belgium’s steady Eddy Terrace had 63 points in a game against Albania. Twenty-one years ago, Petar Naumoski of Northern Macedonia poured in 49 in a game against Poland.

Greece's Nikos Galis, who in 1987 fired his country to European glory on home soil with 40 points in a 103-101 overtime triumph against the Soviet Union in the Final, had actually scored more than that four years earlier. He had 46 in a FIBA EuroBasket 1983 game against Sweden.

Israel's Micky Berkowitz and Doron Jamchy, and Bosnia and Herzogovina's Nenad Markovic had 44-point performances in FIBA EuroBasket games, while Greece’s Georgios Kolokithas, Germany's Dirk Nowitzki and Spain's Emiliano Rodriguez had 43-point games.

The most points ever scored in a title game, though, remains Djordjevic's 41 against Lithuania.

The 1995 Final was among the finest in FIBA EuroBasket history, too. It was close until the end and as good as Djordjevic was, Sarunas Marciulionis of Lithuania might have been even better. He poured in a spectacular 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting but also had six assists and six rebounds.

Sarunas Marciulionis was an impressive sight at EuroBasket 1995

Rewatch that game you'll see that a muscular Marciulionis cut an amazing figure on the court. One of Europe's greatest ever players, he was among the first to go to the NBA from Europe and is in both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Someone mentioned to me this week: "Marciulionis was an absolute beast. With a body like that, he could get to the rim at will. One of my all-time faves."

There were other factors that made this EuroBasket, and its Final, compelling.

Lithuania's Marciulionis (No. 13) amazed with 32 points, six assists and six rebounds

Lithuania had just several years earlier gained independence from the Soviet Union. All of their national pride with their tremendous traveling support was on display.

For Yugoslavia, it was a seismic event. They had been under sanctions from the United Nations and had not been allowed to participate in sporting events, including the Barcelona Olympics and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1994 in Toronto.

By 1995, however, part of the UN sanctions had been lifted. The problem for Yugoslavia was that they had not gone through the qualifications for FIBA EuroBasket.

Yugoslavia had Vlade Divac (far left) and Predrag Danilovic (far right) at EuroBasket 1995

The Greek Basketball Federation, as hosts, agreed to an enlarged tournament field, from 12 teams to 14 teams and FIBA staged an Additional Qualifying Tournament, which ran from May 31 to June 4, and both Yugoslavia and Turkey ended up qualifying.

Serbian sports journalist Alex Krstanovic remembered how they struggled.

"Yugoslavia barely won, but did qualify at the end," he told me. "I think other teams participating at that EuroBasket were not really happy to see us coming.

"Yugoslavia needed overtime to win 93-87 against Bulgaria, who were led by an inspired Georgi Mladenov with 42 points. Bosnia and Herzegovina refused to play Yugoslavia (Yugoslavia were therefore given a 20-0 win), while the other team qualified from the Sofia tournament was Turkey."

Yugoslavia then went unbeaten at the FIBA EuroBasket, including a 60–52 win over the Greeks in the Semi-Finals, before beating Lithuania.

Djordjevic, one of seven from the floor with seven points against Greece, saved his best for Lithuania

"This win kind of put us back on the map and opened up one of the best periods of Yugoslav basketball - gold 1995, silver 1996, gold 1997, gold 1998, bronze 1999, gold 2001, gold 2002 and this EuroBasket 1995 was the initial spark," Krstanovic said.

If you didn't watch this Final when FIBA showed it in late March as part of the Classic Games series, check it out. In addition to Marciulionis and Djordjevic in that game are other international basketball legends, household names, like Arvydas Sabonis of Lithuania and Predrag Danilovic and Vlade Divac of Yugoslavia.

We are right now having withdrawal symptoms with most basketball having been stopped, so until the live play resumes, take advantage of the break and look back at some of the great games on the FIBA YouTube Channel, starting with that FIBA EuroBasket 1995 Final.

Jeff Taylor

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor, a North Carolina native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate, has been a journalist since 1990. He started covering international basketball after moving to Europe in 1996. Jeff provides insight and opinion every week about players and teams on the old continent that are causing a buzz.