By Antonis Stroggylakis/ [email protected]
Olimpia Milano advanced to the 2021 EuroLeague Final Four and returned to the tournament after 29 years, marking a historic occasion for the club and several of its players who will get so close to competing for the championship for first time in their careers.
For Kyle Hines in particular, this qualification was basically something like preserving an annual tradition. One that has been going on for nearly a decade.
Hines, already the winningest U.S. player in the modern EuroLeague era with four championships, became the first American baller to reach the Final Four tournament nine times in his career in this edition of the competition.
That’s every single year Hines has played in EuroLeague except his maiden campaign with Brose Bamberg in 2011 and the 2020 season which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So basically we are talking about nine Final Four appearances in a row, a pretty unique and totally wild achievement.
Before this night and Milano punching the ticket to Cologne, Hines was tied for eight Final Four appearances with J.R. Holden, another CSKA great. Holden played in all of his eight Final Fours with CSKA, winning the 2006 and 2008 titles.
The qualifying win of Milano over Bayern Munich in Game 5 also had Hines’ signature all over it. Apart from finishing with 12 points plus seven rebounds, he pulled off the most crucial defense of the match by making a clean stop on Wade Baldwin’s game-tying attempt with eight seconds remaining to then hand possession to his team after a jumpball.
Hines, 34, made his first Final Four trip with Olympiacos Piraeus in 2012 and capped a “Cinderella story” season by winning the title following an impressive comeback in the championship game against CSKA. He captured the back-to-back trophy in 2013 and then moved to CSKA to finish every single one of the following seasons in the Final Four while celebrating two more EuroLeague trophies.