How to have the ultimate Istanbul experience during Turkish Airlines Euroleague

How to have the ultimate Istanbul experience during Turkish Airlines Euroleague

Caner Kocamaz
May 17, 2017

Luigi Datome, photo courtesy of Euroleague BasketballBringing Europe’s best basketball teams together, Turkish Airlines EuroLeague finals are in Istanbul this year. The final games between the best four teams in the Final Four are in Istanbul for the second time after five years. Istanbul-based Turkish teams Darüşşafaka Doğuş, Fenerbahçe, and Anadolu Efes are among the final eight teams that competed for a spot in the Final Four, which take place from May 19–21.

From their first impressions of Istanbul to their favorite restaurants in the city right now, we got to know the non-Turkish players on three of the Istanbul-based teams and learned their tips for first-timers to the city. This is Anadolu Efes’ Alex Kirk’s first year in Istanbul and he is amazed by the culture around him. “It’s a different culture from New Mexico, where I grew up, and China and Italy,” where he has been lately. Fenerbahçe’s Luigi Datome had some problems with Turkish at the beginning, yet he is astonished by the visual smorgasbord Istanbul offers, saying that the “landscapes are breathtaking” and that he “fell in love with the city at first sight.”

With much of their time taken up by the busy schedules of the Turkish Basketball League and Euroleague, the players do not get a lot of free time, but when they do they eat out and explore the city. “I go to Galata and Kadıköy to explore new places, have a cup of coffee in Karaköy, and walk in the streets,” Datome says of his free days. The players also seem to be caught up with the SaltBae sensation as well. Both Datome and Darüşşafaka Doğuş’s Scottie Wilbekin’s favorite restaurant is Nusr-et.

Istanbul through players’ eyes

Now that Kirk, Datome, and Wilbekin are living in Istanbul, it is their chance to show first-comers around the city. Kirk’s parents were in town a couple of weeks ago. He told the Guide Istanbul, “The first thing we did was to take a tram through the city.” Starting out from Kabataş and going through the Old City, the tram is a good and fast way to start exploring the city. “Getting on the water and seeing the city from the water” opens up another window through the city as well. Datome also recommends first-timers to the city visit the Old City and Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Balat neighborhood. He also suggests “tasting the Istanbul food.” Wilbekin, on the other hand, says first-timers should “visit Nusr-et to see SaltBae.”

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Alex Kirk, photo courtesy of Euroleague Basketball


Alex Kirk’s favorite landmark: Grand Bazaar
Alex Kirk’s favorite outdoor space to workout: Bebek
Luigi Datome’s favorite neighborhoods: Karaköy and Balat
Luigi Datome’s favorite landmark: Bosphorus Bridge
Scottie Wilbekin’s favorite restaurant: Nusr-et

Fenerbahçe’s time to shine

Out of three Istanbul teams, Fenerbahçe qualified to be in the Final Four. Fenerbahçe’s Datome is thrilled for “the opportunity to play against all these teams and for the long journey until the Final Four.” The team will play Real Madrid on May 19 at 8:30pm at Sinan Erdem Dome. The winner of this game will compete for the championship with either CSKA Moscow or Olympiacos, depending on the result of the game on May 19 at 5:30pm. The championship game is on Sunday, May 21 at 9pm. In Turkey, TRT Spor will broadcast all games live on TV.

Zorlu PSM will be screening EuroLeague games on May 19: 6:30pm for CSKA Moscow vs. Olympiacos, 9:30pm for Fenerbahçe vs. Real Madrid; May 21: 6pm for the game for the third place and the championship game at 9pm. After the second game on Friday night, there will be a party with music from the ‘70s, to the ‘90s.

Scottie Wilbekin, photo courtesy of Euroleague Basketball

A festival-like weekend is coming up

Before the games start, there are a slew of other fun activities taking place around the sports complex. FanZone activities include a concert by Manga, three-on-three basketball tournaments, and much more. Euroleague legends of previous years will play in exhibition games and hold autograph sessions as well. Check the events schedule for the dates and times for the events on the Euroleague website.

Fans will also be able to watch the games with virtual reality glasses on after the games end. One of the referees for the games will wear special equipment that will record the game and allow fans to experience it as if they were on the court.