The story of the Bayern Munich Basketball Team
1946: Origins of the team
Bayern Munich FC, founded on 27 February 1900, also have strong links with basketball. The basketball branch of the team was created in 1946 by passionate former footballer and basketball pioneer Franz Kronberger. Kronberger had to hang up his boots as a result of a war related injury and soon after discovered that basketball was his new passion. After the war, Kronberger’s influence and passion resulted in the creation of numerous sports pitches for the young people of Munich to use.
The 1950s - winning the first title and succesfully defending it
The foundations for the Bayern Munich basketball team had been set and the team didn’t have to wait long for success. In 1954 the team celebrated becoming German Champions for the first time, having won in Heidelberg. This was followed by a successful title defence the year after when the team, led by Franz Kromberger, won in Berlin. One of the team’s stars was Markus Bernhard, who had a distinguished and highly successful career in a variety of sports. The four time Basketball championship winner (having also won the title twice with MTSV Schwabing in 1947 and 1949) also found success in Handball. Bernhard was capped numerous times by the national team and won the outdoor national championship twice and the indoor championship once, in 1954.
Standing (From left to right): Alex Drogolowitsch, Max Braun, Walter Dassel, Franz Kronberger, Markus Bernhard; Kneeling (From left to right): Heinz Kinader, Rudi Vogt, Hans Beyer, Rudolf Hohner.
In 1956, a unique spectacle took place in the city, when the ‘Reds’ played a match in the Grünwalder Stadium before a Bayern Munich football match against Budapest. The backdrop was incredible – 28,000 onlookers in an open air stadium, all of whom were treated to a 54:46 win against Italian powerhouses Lancia Bolzano.
The FC Bayern basketball team appearing before a match of their fooutballing counterparts.
The 1960s: Cup success
In 1966, FCBB had another chance to become national champions, however, they lost 74:86 to eventual champions USC Heidelberg in the Semi Final, which was held at the Munich McGraw barracks. In the same year, the German Basketball-Bundesliga was created by the DBB. Bayern were founding members of the league and finished the inaugural campaign in 4thplace. The German Cup success in 1968 is a further standout point in the clubs history. The team, coached by Franz Kronberger, included German national team stars such as Hans-Jörg Krüger, Klaus Schulz and Dieter Schneider, won 59:55 against MTV Wolfenbüttel in the final.
Cup Winners 1968
Standing (From left to right): Josef Regiert (Betreuer), Dr. Klaus Schulz, Jay Johnson, Fritz Feilner, Dieter Schneider, Anton Grässle, Hans-Jörg „Gigs“ Krüger, Franz Kronberger (Trainer); kneeling (From left to right): Willy Zeiträg, Peter Zilliger, Jürgen Schröder.
Basketball Legend Dr. Klaus Schulz
Klaus Schulz (Born 26.5.1936) captained FCBB to their cup success in the 1967/68 season and is widely considered to be highly important figure in the history of German basketball. Schulz won 73 caps for Germany and was the first German player to grace the coveted Spanish league, where he played for Estudiantes Madrid. After an exceptional playing career, Schulz returned to Bayern in the 1980s where he became head coach of the team, who by now had been relegated to the second tier. Even today, Schulz’s influence is felt on the team – he now works behind the scenes for them – and rarely misses a home match.
The 70s and 80s: Promotion and Relegation
After 8 years in the top division of German basketball, the team slipped into the Regional League in 1974. In 1982 the team gained promotion to the Second division, having finished second in the table. For the next five years, Bayern struggled to make an impression on the domestic game. Led by Cedric Robinson, George Devone and Peter Kemmer (Who took up a management post between 1988-2013) and coached by Gregor Aas, the team achieved great success in 1987; reaching the semi finals of the Cup and getting promoted to the top flight as Champions. However, the dream soon turned to a nightmare as the team only spent two years in the Bundesliga before being relegated once more.
Standing (From left to right): Gregor Aas (Trainer), Peter Durner, George Devone, Cedric Robinson, Bob Miller, Gerhard Werner, Klaus Nowak; Kneeling (From left to right): Jochen Trux, Horst Wester, Peter Kemmer, Bernd Perner, Gernot Bleichner, Marko Woytowicz.
From the 90s until 2008
Whilst the German national team surprised everyone by becoming European Champions in 1993 under the leadership of Svetislav Pesic - beating Russia in the final which was held in the Munich Olympiahalle, times were tougher for FCBB. The year marked their relegation to the Regional Leagues after a disappointing few years. The following decade can be seen as somewhat of a yoyo period, with the club returning to the Second Division for the 1995/96, 1999/2000 and 2004/05 campaigns, but getting relegated immediately. During this period, Bayern were able to claim 7 league championships, despite minimal success in the end of season play offs.
At the end of the 2007/08 campaign, the club moved in a new direction having strengthened ties with their footballing counterparts. Having once again won the Regional League, there was clamour to be awarded a license to appear in the newly founded ProA leagues. It was hoped that achieving this would help establish professional basketball in Munich and gradually return the club to its previous glory days. In early 2010 a survey amongst the clubs members resulted in a majority believing that FCB should offer support to the basketball team, but with football still being the main priority. Club President Uli Hoeneß and his vice president Bernd Rauch, offered their immediate support to FCBBs ‘Mission Promotion’ campaign.
2011: Mission accomplished
In the 2010/11 season ‘Mission Promotion’ reached a critical stage, with matches being staged in the Ice Arena, located in the Olympic Park. Head Coach Dirk Bauermann (Who was also managing the national side at the time), as well as German internationals Steffan Hamann and Desmond Greene were tasked with completing the mission. A successful campaign culminated in Bayern gaining promotion to the top tier once again, with seven matches still to be played.
The club surprised many by finishing 5th in their first campaign back in the Bundesliga and making the end of season play offs, where they lost a dramatic five match quarter final series against the Artland Dragons. In November 2012, the club appointed the experienced Serb Svetislav Pesic as Head Coach and he led the club to the Play Off Semi Finals at the first time of asking. The series against the Brose Baskets reached the critical fifth and final fixture, where they travelled to Bamberg. The Baskets won the match, consequently taking the series 3-2 and went on to win the Play Offs.
The Audi Dome: A new home for FCBB
The resurgence of FCBB in the Basketball Bundesliga meant that an arena suitable for high level basketball was necessary. The Clubs chose to relocate to a new home – the Rudi-Sedlmayer Halle. The Arena, which lies in the Westpark, hosted the Olympic Basketball Competition in 1972 and until its closure in 2003 hosted various events including concerts and boxing title fights. After a total refurbishment, the 6,700 capacity ‘Audi Dome’ opened on 20 September 2011, when it hosted a friendly between FCBB and the Turkish Club ‘Fenerbahce Ülker’.
2014: National Champions again and an impressive European Debut
At the start of the 2013/14, Bayern boldly claimed that they hoped to achieve success on all fronts. In addition to their domestic campaign, the team had been awarded a wildcard to appear in the debut campaign of the newly formed Euroleague. This resulted in the workload of the players being increased so that they could fight on all fronts. At the end of the 34 match regular campaign, Bayern topped the table and thus were seeded first, enabling them to face the lowest qualifying side in the first round. Over the course of the regular season, Bayern beat their title rivals Bamberg twice. Their second success was a 76:75 victory in front of 6,800 passionate Bamberg fans. The American Malcolm Delaney became the first Bayern Player to be awarded the end of season MVP (Most Valuable Player) award.
The club additionally looked to cause a stir during their debut campaign in the Euroleague. Their maiden fixture at this level took place on 20 September 2013 and resulted in a 94:73 victory against the Polish Champions Stelmet Zielona Gora. After three more victories, FCBB qualified for the Top 16 Round, which brought with it 14 extra matches. A spectacular 85:83 victory over Real Madrid proved to be the highpoint of the campaign. With a total of 5 victories, Bayern failed to qualify for the next stage of the competition – the Round of 8. In the German domestic cup, FCBB played well but were unable to qualify for the latter stages.
At the quarter final stage of the Play Offs, Bayern faced Ludwigsburg and came away with a 3-1 victory, despite having to deal with a controversial replay and a big injury to topscorer Nihad Djedovic, which resulted in Rookie Paul Zipser being called up to the first team. Bayern went into the semi final against reigning Champions Oldenburg without the pair. After marching into a 2-0 lead, the North Germans fought back to level the tie after four matches. In the fifth and final match of the series, Bayern triumphed having emphatically won 88:63 in front of thousands of their own fans, which meant that they progressed to the Play Off Final for the first time in their history.
The opposition in the final were ALBA Berlin, who earlier in the year lifted the German Cup. Bayern won the first fixture 88:81 in front of a capacity crowd at the Audi Dome, but Berlin fought back with a 95:81 triumph in Berlin. The third match put Pesic’s team on the edge of glory, as they won 92:86 in Munich. The fourth encounter between the sides offered Munich the chance to make history, and they grabbed it with both hands. In front of 13.434 fans in the O2 World Arena, which included at least 500 excited Bayern fans, the Bavarians won 75:62 and were able to celebrate their first German Championship for 59 years.
As well as being awarded the prize in the regular season, Malcolm Delaney was made MVP for the Play Off series. After returning to Munich the morning after the Championship decider, the team celebrated their success in front of the Audi Dome with roughly 1,000 dedicated supporters. During 2013/14 Bayern broke the record for the number of competitive matches played in a season, having taken to the arena 75 times. At least 6,000 supporters were present in the Audi Dome for every home match played across the three major competitions.
The Champions 2013/14: Robin Benzing, John Bryant, Malcolm Delaney, Nihad Djedovic, Steffen Hamann (Captain), Demond Greene, Yassin Idbihi, Mauricio Marin, Boris Savovic, Heiko Schaffartzik, Lucca Staiger, Bryce Taylor, Deon Thompson, Chevon Troutman, Malo Valérien, Paul Zipser.
"FC Bayern München Basketball GmbH"
On October 1st, 2014, FC Bayern Basketball adopted a new operating form: the economic basketball business was spun off from FC Bayern München eV and transformed into a GmbH (limited liability company). FC Bayern München Basketball GmbH" includes the professional squad of the German champion, the office, the Audi Dome play and training facility and all related legal transactions. The sole shareholder of the GmbH is the FC Bayern München eV. Marko Pesic (with a focus on sports and marketing) and his former deputy Volker Stix (finances and organisation) are equal managing directors.
The picture in the 2015/16 season was similar to the year prior. The Bavarians played some exciting basketball, but it was not enough to win a title. The Top Four in their own hall was only seconds away from their first cup victory since 1968. After Bamberg had been defeated in an epic semi-final, Alba Berlin played the spoilsport and scored the decisive points just two seconds before the end. Head coach Svetislav Pesic's team did not recover from this disappointment, as the championship once again went to Brose Bamberg. The 3-0 loss in the play-off semi-final was the disappointing end of a season with many ups and downs and it would be the start of a new era in the Audi Dome.
In the summer of 2016, master coach Svetislav Pesic had to vacate his seat on the coach's bench due to an upcoming knee operation and was replaced by none other than the former world class point Guard, Sasa Djordjevic. With him and around him, the FCBB worked on a team that could thrill the fans in the Audi Dome with its spectacular playing style. Devin Booker, Maxi Kleber, Vladimir Lucic and Danilo Barthel pumped up the crowd with regularity.
The newly formed FCBB team convinced in its first season, and only three losses in the regular season meant a new club record but suprisingly they were only the third seed in the playoffs. It came down to a duel with the permanent rival Alba Berlin, which the Bavarians won 3-1. This was followed by the repetition of the events of the previous season, because once again the FCBB was in the playoff semi-final against Bamberg and once again they lost in three games. In the summer of 2017, there was also a title-less season in the books, as the Munich team lost a game against Bamberg in the cup final in Berlin in the last minutes.
The FCBB also failed internationally in the Eurocup quarter-finals against Malaga, who later won the title. In the previous year, the final eight game was lost against champion Galatasaray Istanbul.
Proof of the good work in Munich though, could still be seen as Maxi Kleber was signed by the Dallas Mavericks and Paul Zipser to the Chicago Bulls the year before.
2018: Two-time champs and most successful season in club history
"Losses make us stronger" - this could be the summary for the 2017/18 season. Though FC Bayern Basketball hasn't been able to celebrate any titles in recent years, but this changed and with the double championships, the 2017/18 season became the most successful season in the club's history.
After wins in the quarter and semi finals against Bamberg and Ulm, the team won the final thriller of the Top Four tournament in Neu-Ulm against Alba Berlin in February with a final score of 80-75 to win the German Cup for the first time in 50 years. In what was a dramatic game, Cunningham was the top scorer for FC Bayern Basketball with 28 points.
The pursuit of greatness was then re-launched in June in the playoff finals. The team around captain Anton Gavel won the quarter-finals 3-2 against Frankfurt and dethroned the defending-champion Bamberg in the play-off semi-finals. The Munich team ended up winning this series against the favorites in four games. After a 0-1 deficit and then a 2-1 lead against Alba Berlin, the final showdown in the Audi Dome took place on June 16th, in which the cup winner and first seeded team impressively won 106-85 and thus celebrated the German championship for the fourth time in the history of the club. 6,500 spectators in the completely sold-out Audi Dome, including President Uli Hoeneß, experienced a brilliant game that didn't disappoint from start to finish. After the first quarter, they never gave the tough Berliners the slightest chance of winning their first title in ten years. Six FCBB pros scored double-digit points and the team around coach Dejan Radonjic managed 29 assists in a beautiful team victory. Nihad Djedovic, who has played more games than anyone in this history of the club, was the top scorer for Bayern with 19 points. National player Danilo Barthel was selected as MVP of the final series. With the win his team earned the right to play in the European premier league, the EuroLeague, for the coming season.
After an atmospheric meet & greet at Paulaner-Freibier with the fans in the foyer of the Audi Dome, the Bavarians celebrated the successful conclusion of a memorable event through the night with their families and the office team in the "Rodman Bar" in the Glockenbach district.
The championship squad 2017/18: Danilo Barthel, Georg Beyschlag, Devin Booker, Jared Cunningham, Nihad Djedovic, Anton Gavel (captain), Braydon Hobbs, Karim Jallow, Stefan Jovic, Alex King, Vladimir Lucic, Milan Macvan, Marvin Ogunsipe, Reggie Redding, Nelson Weidemann, Maik Zirbes.