Monaco has long been a sporting capital of Europe.
Monaco is world renown for autoracing with its Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1, its Rally Monte-Carlo, and other events like the recent Monaco E-Prix for electric cars.
In fact, the Monaco Grand Prix is considered one of the three most important races to win as part of the autoracing Triple Crown that also features the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
(James Moy Photography)
Yet, Monaco’s sporting prowress does not end there.
Monaco’s Hercules Meet is an annual IAAF Diamond League meet for Track and Field, while equestrian fans will surely be familiar with the International Showjumping of Monte-Carlo competition that forms a part of the Longines Global Champions Tour.
And of course, just outside of Monaco is the French commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which hosts the ATP Masters level tennis event called the Monte-Carlo Masters, just one level below a Grand Slam.
These events, combined with the famed soccer team AS Monaco who play in French Ligue 1 provides Monaco with a constant display of top level sport.
And outside of the Monte-Carlo Masters in tennis, all of these take place within the 2.02 km² city-state making Monaco probably the most densely elite sporting host in the world.
Yet, in the last eight years, another sport has been slowly coming to garnish the attention of the playground for billionaires!
AS Monaco’s once famous basketball team that had finished runners-up in the French top division back in 1950, had gotten to the French Cup Final in 1983, and had played in European-level competition in the 1970s had just won back to back promotions from the third and second French divisions respectively to join LNB Pro A for the 2015-2016 season, their first appearance in the top level French basketball league since the 1980s.
Given all the events the Monegasque and Monacan people can attend, La Roca Team as the basketball department is called at AS Monaco knew they needed to find a way to rise up from under the shadows of their football department, a metaphor even more accurate once you realize that La Roca Team‘s Salle Gaston Médecin arena is located beneath the soccer team’s Stade Louis-II.
(Communication Department – Manuel Vitali)
Immediately, AS Monaco was able to win the French league cup called the LNB Pro A Leaders Cup in 2016, 2017, and 2018!
These trophies provided AS Monaco’s basketball department with their first top tier trophies ever, a farcry from their soccer team who has won 8 French Ligue 1 titles, 5 Coupe de France titles, 1 Coupe de La Ligue title, 4 Trophée des Champions titles, and got to the UEFA Champions League Final before losing finishing European runners-up in 2003-2004. In fact, it was during this first season back in the top level of French basketball play that AS Monaco’s football team won Ligue 1 and made it to the UEFA Champions League Semi-finals.
Still, these three Leaders Cup trophies thus introduced the people of Monaco to a new sport which could give the Principality glory: basketball.
La Roca Team was able to use this momentum to garner more achievements.
Their achievement in the 2015-2016 season allowed for the Roca Boys to compete in the third tier European wide competition called the Basketball Champions League where AS Monaco got third place, and the next season finished runners-up. This second season in the Basketball Champions League also saw AS Monaco regain their highest height in the French top division finishing runners-up.
AS Monaco’s European and French success saw La Roca Team earn a chance to compete in the European second tier EuroCup for the 2018-2019 season. Les Rouges et Blancs would not reach the medal rounds for the EuroCup that season, but once again found themselves as the French League runners-up.
The 2019-2020 season was supposed to be a season to remember, as AS Monaco found themselves in first place in LNB Pro A, but COVID-19 canceled the season. Still, AS Monaco was able to reach their best European result yet, a Quarter-final trip in the EuroCup.
The 2020-2021 season saw a drop off in French League form finishing fourth, but in European competition, AS Monaco Basket was finally able to win the EuroCup!
(© Communication Department / Manuel Vitali)
This brought AS Monaco into the top level of European club basketball, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague!
The 2021-2022 season thus was the first of elite European level basketball in the city-state and it did not disappoint.
AS Monaco finished the regular season at 15-13, making it to the playoffs and losing in the Quarter-finals to 3x European Champions Olympiacos. AS Monaco also finished second place in LNB Pro A once again.
This brings us to the current season for AS Monaco which so far has been historic!
Already, AS Monaco has secured first place in the LNB Pro A regular season with two games still left.
And, on 22 April 2023, AS Monaco won their first Coupe de France de Basket (French Cup) title!
However, it has been La Roca Team‘s European performances that have seen AS Monaco Basket garnish the attention of the whole Principality and the world over!
After finishing 21-13, AS Monaco was able to earn a home court advantage for their Quarter-final matchup with Israel’s most historic club, Maccabi Tel Aviv, as Europe’s fourth best team.
The first four games saw both teams split 1-1 at home, for a 2-2 series tie. This set up a series deciding Game 5 in the Fontvieille district of Monaco at the newly refurbished Salle Gaston Médecin arena for Wednesday 11 May 2023.
And it was in front of Prince Albert II and a sold out crowd that AS Monaco scored another historic achievement, when AS Monaco defeated the 6x European Champions, Maccabi Tel Aviv, 3 games to 2 in the EuroLeague Quarter-finals, with a 97-86 victory!
This earned AS Monaco a trip to Europe’s marquee basketball event: the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four!
The event will take place on Friday 19 May for the Semi-final games and on Sunday 21 May for the 3rd Place game and the Final!
Žalgirio Arena in Kuanus, Lithuania will be the host as AS Monaco will play Olympiacos and FC Barcelona will play Real Madrid.
These games will be televised worldwide and many stars will be present in the crowd, including a possible appearance by Prince Albert II who hopes to visit Lithuania’s second city for the event.
A EuroLeague Champions trophy is fully the goal for AS Monaco Basket and an accomplishment of this magnitude will surely place basketball into the eternal memory of the people of Monaco for generations.
But already, this Final Four achievement has made basketball a mainstay of the Monaco’s sports calendar.
And, with AS Monaco being the expected champions of LNB Pro A for the playoffs, La Roca Team also has another potential historic achievement hanging in the balance and that is the chance at their first French championship later this year.
And for French club basketball, AS Monaco have also brought them up from under the shadows as the Roca Boys‘ 2023 Final Four achievement marks the first time a French league club has made Europe’s marquee event since 1997.
Perhaps the most famous American in Monaco had the greatest quote for the sport that calls his mother’s birth nation home: “In Monaco, there was football, and now there is also basketball” (Prince Albert II).
Surely, the Principality of Monaco is now part of the European Basketball Elite as their club gets ready for a historic matchup with the Greek Champions in Lithuania.