The name Jiri Zidek has written with... golden pages in the history of european basketball. Zidek senior was leader of Slavia Prague in the Cup Winner's Cup Final in Kallimarmaro Stadium in 1968 against AEK and had scored 31 points for the Czechs!
From the name and surname it is sure that you already understood that we are talking also about the father of Jiri Zidek that was the first Czech that participated at NBA and managed to win Euroleague with the amazing Zalgiris of Jonas Kazlauskas, team that actually made Final-4 of 1999 upside down.
This particularly family has written her own gold history at European basketball and contains the only father and son that both have won European trophy as players!
The 73 years old Jiri Zidek has been considered by many as the top Czech basketball player of all time, due to his amazing career with the national basketball team of Czechoslovakia (silver medal at Eurobasket of 1967 and bronze medal at 1969, first scorer of the team) and with the Slavia Prague.
He has been described as a forward at a center body, because he was an excellent player at position “5”, very effective “hook” and really good at rebounds, with flexibility and excellent score.
He was a Slavia Prague player at the majority of his career (1962-1969, 1970-1977 with the trophy of Cup Winners Cup 1969 (80-74 vs Dynamo Tbilisi) as the greatest moment, while at 1966 was at the final of Champions Cup, where even though his great appearance with 22p. Milano (Olimpia Milano) took the trophy (77-72).
Before the winning of Cup Winners Cup, he met an obstacle at his way to the top. This obstacle was AEK. At 04/04/1968 at Kallimarmaro Stadium, AEK won Slavia (89-82). A final's fame that it is still been discussed, even though they have past 49 years from then. This game will never be forgotten by Zidek, the big hero of his team.
The then 24 years old forward/center player was the leader of the powerful Slavia and he would have been the unquestionable MVP of the final, if Slavia had won the trophy.
From this final game he can remember and discuss the fact that “AEK was a team with exceptional players, such as Trontzos and Amerikanos, who were the most significant individuals. What happened that night was unique. The morning of the game we came for training at Kallimarmaro Stadium and looked at the place, but we could never imagine what would have happened at the final game”.
Even today, he continues to characterize this game as “phenomenon”, because of the record of 80.000 audience, a record that was recognized by Guinness Record Book . “Probably, the entire population of Athens was at the Stadium that night… The crowd was so much that there was no other room and many of them were outside the Stadium and heard the game from the radio. It was a phenomenon that I will never forget”.
The words of this great Czech about the epic final game of 1968 are wonderful and he does not hesitate to characterize the game against AEK as the most important game of his career.
When we asked him to characterize the final game against AEK , even if was a lost game, the answer was loud and clear: “The final game against AEK was the greatest game of my life. I will never forget it. It was a great chapter for me and for Slavia, because the next year we won the trophy. I had the chance to meet again some of the team players of AEK the next year at the Eurobasket of Italy and it was really great that I saw them again".
Definitely, the final game at Kallimarmaro Stadium is a historical game, but was another option about the location? Slavia was opposite about the place of the game? Zidek answers that “as far as I can remember, the two teams were discussing with FIBA. Athens was a preposition that came from AEK and for that the game took place there. I think it would have been better for Slavia to take place the final fame at Prague, but at the time there was no suitable court. Athens did not have a closed basketball court at the time and the solution of Kallimarmaro Stadium came up”.
“Team with the whole meaning of the word”
The “apple” Zidek came from the family's basketball “apple tree” about 3 decades later with Jiri II to be a lot just like his father and to succeed a lot of the things that his father due to different circumstances never made to do.
Like the NBA dream, where Zidek junior managed to play in contrary with the Zidek senior.
Like he told to us “ I was really lucky in comparison with my fellow citizens, even with my father, because before the 90s it was not capable someone from Czech to play at the USA because of the political situation of my country. I had the opportunity to go at UCLA college that really helped me. It was there that I improved lots of facts of my way of gaming and of course this helped my career”.
In 1998, Jiri Zidek came to Europe and wore the shirt of Zalgiris, to be a member of a remarkable team, that player total basketball, that all of us admired in the 1999 Euroleague Final-4 in Munich, where crowned European Champion!
"This was a very important moment of my career. That Zalgiris team had incredible chemistry. The relationships in the team were perfect and everybody understood what coach Kazlauskas asked for. The players respected each other and we were a TEAM with all the meaning of the word. Zalgiris had great Lithuanian players and also Edney and Bowie that helped a lot"
“Galis was from another dimension”.
As a son of a very important basketball player, he is his best admirer, but he admired other basketball players too, even a Greek! “As a child I grew up with basketball images that had Greek basketball players included. Giannakis and Fasoulas were great players, but Nikos Galis was from another… dimension! Greece at 1987 had a great basketball team that made possible the impossible: won the final game against USSR!”.
Since his retirement as a basketball player, the Czech is now commentator at Euroleague TV and for that reason we asked from him his opinion about the play – off couples and especially about the couple of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos Superfoods: “The court advantage that Panathinaikos has at play offs is huge and it is the base for the qualify at Final-4. We cannot forget that almost the 80% of the teams with this advantage qualify. Also, we cannot forget that the qualify will not be easy against Fener”.
About Olympiakos “the crossroad with Efes is not easy. Efes is a difficult and taught team, but Olympiakos is the favorite”. As far as it concerns the title: “The organization is very inconclusive and interesting. The new format has helped in all this and it is possible that everyone can beat everyone. There is no clear favorite. Especially at Final-4, when everything can happen in a 40 minute game”.
Closing, we asked him if we can wait a third Zidek generation. The possibilities are high, because Jiri has 3 sons 17, 14 and 1 with him hoping “that someone of my sons will play basketball. It will be great about family. My elder son plays at a basketball team and I hope that he could play basketball”.