The club, BG Charlottenburg, enters its first Bundesliga season. Coach Faruk Kulenovic’s team with Zoran Radovic and Calvin Oldham makes rapid progress, developing to the Bundesliga’s surprise team of the season and advances to the final 16 of the Korac Cup, but has no main sponsor, which gives manager Marco Baldi financial headaches. As the financial situation becomes critical shortly before the playoffs, Franz-Josef Schweitzer, head of the ALBA AG, jumps in to save the team. With uniforms bearing the freshly pressed ALBA letters, the Berliners even put the highly favored team from Leverkusen under pressure, taking a 2-1 lead in the playoff finals. However, in the fourth game, Zoran Radovic, who had been the most outstanding player until that point, goes down with a broken fibula. Without their top star, the Berliners end up losing the final series 2-3, but win over Franz-Josef Schweitzer and Dieter Hauert – two renowned Berlin businessmen – as part of the bigger team. ALBA becomes the main sponsor, and the BG Charlottenburg becomes ALBA BERLIN. Dieter Hauert is voted in as club president.
ALBA signs Sebastian Machowski and Teoman Öztürk from TuS Lichterfelde and thereby documents its interests for the development of young Berliner talent. The headlines, however, are made by other newcomers. The Berliner public interest is awakened through the signing of Uwe Blab, a 2.17 m German center with NBA experience, and Emir Mutapcic, a Bosnian member of the Yugoslavian national team, and the expectations are high. These expectations, however, cannot be quite fulfilled by the team, which offers inconsistent performances on the court, and is further hampered by the several nagging injuries of playmaker Zoran Radovic, who never finds his form of the previous season. Although ALBA again reaches the finals of the playoffs, they lose there clearly to Bayer Leverkusen, 0-3. In the Europe-Cup, the newly formed “runner-up” to the Euroleague, the Albatross makes it to the round of the final twelve, but have to take a lesson from strong opponents such as the later finalist, PAOK Saloniki.
ALBA manager Marco Baldi seals the cooperation of the large southern Berlin Club, TuS Lichterfelde, with Peter Klingbiel and Michael Radeklau. The model that is developed, where the best young, talented players play for TuSLi in the second or regional league, and at the same time practice with ALBA’s Bundesliga team, becomes a model for more and more Bundesliga teams in the following years, and eventually leads to the BBL double license rule for young players. While such major trailblazing steps are being made behind the scenes, the current season, with a team reinforced by the Bosnian Mario Primorac and national player Stephan Baeck, is somewhat disappointing. ALBA misses the leap into the main round of the Korac-Cup and is upset in the quarterfinals of the Bundesliga playoffs (0-2 against Ludwigsburg). The Basketball fans, however, are soon given a new subject: the German national team is sensationally crowned European Champion under coach Svetislav Pesic.
Svetislav Pesic is engaged as head coach and brings his European champion assistant coach, Burkhardt Prigge with him. Emir “Muki” Mutapcic takes the helm of the youth program. Henrik Rödl and Hansi Gnad come to Berlin, bringing two players from the European Championship team as well. The team is further reinforced by the Slovenian national team player Teoman Alibegovic, but never seems to find its rhythm, handicapped with repeated injuries to key players. Stephan Baeck manages to be the recipient of the worst of these, and suffers a dangerous eye injury while playing a Korac-Cup game in Leon which keeps him off the court for the rest of the season. The continual absences of players forces ALBA to react: the experienced Armin Andres is signed mid-season, as well as the 18 year old Ademola Okulaja from TuS Lichterfelde. As the team finally seems to have returned to strength by the end of the season, hope begins to sprout for the playoffs. But because of the botched regular season, the Albatross are forced to face arch-rival Bayer Leverkusen in the semifinals, and lose 1-3.
ALBA reaches the quarterfinals of the Korac-Cup with luck, but once there, manages to exceed all expectations. With wins over Fortitudo Bologna and Caceres, Stephan Baeck, Gunther Behnke, Oliver Braun, Sasa Obradovic, Teoman Alibegovic, Patrick Falk, Ingo Freyer, Sebastian Machowski, Teoman Öztürk, Ademola Okulaja, and Henrik Rödl, with coaches Pesic and Prigge, become the first German team to advance to the finals of a European Cup. Thousands of fans follow the away games on a big screen television in the Sömmerlinghalle gym. The 10,000 tickets for the finals are sold out within a few hours. The sudden boom in Berlin is met with as much surprise across Europe as the athletic performance of the Albatross. ALBA fights to a 87-87 tie in the first game of the two game final at Stefanel Milan (Sasa Obradovic 34 points), and in game two Teoman Alibegovic’s 34 points turn the sold out Deutschlandhalle into a madhouse. ALBA wins the Korac-Cup on March 15 with an 85-79 triumph. Everyone now expects ALBA to win the national title as well, but weakened by injuries to Alibegovic and Obradovic, the Albatross has to bow once more to Bayer Leverkusen.
A multiyear cooperation contract is signed with Adidas. ALBA finishes the group phase of the final 16 of the Korac-Cup strongly with a 4-2 record, but it becomes close in the quarterfinals against ASVEL Villeurbanne, where the Berliners are just 4 points ahead after game one at home. In an equally dramatic Game 2 in France, ALBA has the ball with just seconds to go in the game, but ASVEL’s defense does not allow the three-point basket needed, and the defending champion is defeated 82-76. Four weeks later, back home in Berlin, awaits the next disappointment. ALBA pulls the short straw at home in the German-Cup semi-finals against archrivals Leverkusen, and then again in the German Championship, losing 3-1 to Bayer, forcing them to further wait for the first national title.
Move to the Max-Schmeling-Halle (spectator capacity: 8,861). With this brave step, ALBA satisfies the enormously raised interest for the Albatross and the European League conditions as well. More than 9,000 fans show up in the totally overfilled new home court to cheer on ALBA at their Schmeling-Halle premiere. The first Euroleague season breaks more spectator records. Wendell Alexis and the national team players, Henning Harnisch, Stephen Arigbabu and Sascha Hupmann join the team, and help to become the first German team to qualify for the Euroleague playoffs, making it to the round of the last sixteen, where, however, they are forced to recognize the dominance of FC Barcelona. On April 13th, 1997, the time has finally come. With a triumph in the German Cup, ALBA wins its first national title in Gießen. On May 17th, the highly sought after German Championship title follows. A 3-1 series win over the surprise finalist Bonn ensures the coaching duo Pesic/Prigge and the players Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Sasa Obradovic, Marko Pesic, Teoman Öztürk, Stephen Arigbabu, Sascha Hupmann, Wendell Alexis, Drazan Tomic, Alexander Frisch, Henning Harnisch, Stipo Papic, and Mithat Demirel a place in the ALBA history books. ALBA is chosen as Berlin’s “Team of the Year” for the first time.
ALBA is the first German team in the history of the Euroleague to advance to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 series win over PAOK Saloniki. Led by Henning Harnisch (23 points with 100% field goal shooting), ALBA is able to beat PAOK in game 3 (104-71) with the largest European Cup point difference in the club’s history. After this decisive victory, dreams of participating in the Final 4 arise, because ALBA has a home court advantage in the quarterfinals against AEK Athens. The high anticipations are vastly overshadowed, however, by the death of ALBA’s company founder, Franz-Josef Schweitzer, with whom the Albatross lose a longtime and loyal companion. ALBA’s dreams of the Final 4 are dashed by two clear victories from AEK Athens. The German Championship title, however, is successfully defended with the duo Pesic/Prigge, and the players Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Henning Harnisch, Marko Pesic, Mithat Demirel, Christian Welp, Stephen Arigbabu, Geert Hammink, Wendell Alexis, Vladimir Bogojevic, Stipo Papic, and Vassilij Karassev. The Albatross are chosen again for Berlin’s “Team of the Year” as well as being awarded the “Golden Band,” the oldest German accolade for athletes.
The International Berlin Basketball Academy (IBBA), which sets the development and education of young talent into top international players as its goal, is formed in collaboration with ALBA. A reshuffled and much younger team experiences a false start in the Euroleague with seven consecutive losses, but steadies in the second half of the season with an incredible show of energy leading to a comeback. With six victories in the last nine games, the Albatross manage to secure fifth place in their group, thereby dodging the threat of losing their place in the Euroleague. Late, but not too late, ALBA confirms its dominant position at the national level with winning the “double”: On January 31, ALBA wins the DBB-Cup in Frankfurt, 69-48 against MTV Gießen, and goes on to win the German Championship against Telekom Baskets Bonn, 3-2, with the players Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Kiwane Garris, Marko Pesic, Mithat Demirel, Franko Nakic, Vladimir Bogojevic, Geert Hammink, Wendell Alexis, Patrick Femerling, Stefano Garris, Robert Maras, Stipo Papic, and Sven Schultze.
The former manager, and since 1998 provisional Vice-President Marco Baldi is reappointed to his office and returns to work full-time for the development of the club. ALBA parts ways with American point guard Frankie King in December, but quickly finds a replacement in Terry Dehere and advance to the Euroleague playoff eighthfinals with a 9-7 record. However, the Albatross have to yield to a strong Efes Pilsen team, 81-90, in front of 12,400 fans in the pandemonium of Efes’ home court in Istanbul and cannot retaliate two days later in the sold-out Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, where they lose again, 73-93. The fourth consecutive German Championship title, however, is secured again with the team of Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Terry Dehere, Vladimir Bogojevic, Geert Hammink, Ademola Okulaja, Sven Schultze, Stephan Baeck, Wendell Alexis, Patrick Femerling, Stefano Garris, Stipo Papic, Robert Maras, Misan Nikagbatse, and Tommy Thorwarth, with a 3-0 series win in the finals against Bayer Leverkusen. Head Coach Svetislav Pesic takes a time-out at the end of the season and is succeeded by Emir Mutapcic, who had been successfully working as a coach in the youth program until then.
A conflict between the FIBA and the ULEB divides European basketball, suddenly resulting in two competing European leagues. ALBA BERLIN decides for the FIBA-SuproLeague and ALBA Vice-President Marco Baldi is voted into the governing body of this newly founded league. New head coach, Emir Mutapcic, is able to make big strides in his first season with impressive success. Together with assistant coach Burkhardt Prigge, he leads the relatively young team, consisting of Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Sven Schultze, Marko Pesic, Derrick Phelps, Teoman Öztürk, Dejan Koturovic, Stefano Garris, Wendell Alexis, Tommy Thorwarth, and Stipo Papic to the quarterfinals of the SuproLeague (0-2 against Panathinaikos) and continues ALBA’s success on the national level. Although key players Dejan Koturovic, Marko Pesic and Jörg Lütcke are sidelined with injuries, ALBA manages a clean 3-0 sweep over Telekom Baskets Bonn in the finals, thanks in part to outstanding performances from young bench players like Tommy Thorwarth and Nino Garris. ALBA is voted as Berlin’s “Team of the Year” at the “Berlin Sportlerwahl” 2001. The wheelchair basketball branch is founded with two men’s teams.
ALBA keeps the team from the previous season, adding the returning Mithat Demirel at the point guard position. Regardless, this develops into one of the most difficult seasons ALBA has experienced. Bad luck with injuries leads to the fact that head coach Emir Mutapcic must wait until February before he can compete with a complete team. At this point, however, it is already too late for the Euroleague, where ALBA has to bow out with a 3-11 record, and ends the regular season of the Bundesliga in fifth place. The team does not give up, and experiences their turning point in the Max-Schmeling-Halle for the German Cup final four. Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Sven Schultze, Marko Pesic, Derrick Phelps, Teo Öztürk, Dejan Koturovic, Nino Garris, Wendell Alexis, Tommy Thorwarth, George Zidek, Mithat Demirel and Stipo Papic win the Cup over the Opel Skyliners 100-88 in an exceptional final in front of 9,000 spectators and subsequently roll over the competition in the playoffs, although starting in the fifth place spot. ALBA does not lose another game, sweeping each series 3-0, without home-court advantage. In the second final game against RheinEnergy Cologne, ALBA BERLIN sets a new BBL playoff spectator record with 10,031 fans in the Schmeling-Halle. Three days later, the Albatross finish the series with a 69-68 win in overtime in Cologne to take their sixth National Championship.
After six successful seasons with “Iceman” Wendell Alexis, the club decides not to renew his contract. The new team, formed around Henrik Rödl, Jörg Lütcke, Jovo Stanojevic, Marko Pesic, Kevin Rankin, Teoman Öztürk, Mithat Demirel, Guido Grünheid, Quadre Lollis, and DeJuan Collins is plagued again by injuries. Point guard “DC” Collins is forced to rest for months with a broken foot, and substitute John Celestand can fill in only some of the holes. Then Jörg Lütcke suffers an ACL tear and is out for the season. The Albatross end 2002 with a series of losses. Then they return to start the New Year showing a overwhelming desire to win. Vladimir Petrovic is signed as a replacement for Lütcke. ALBA BERLIN wins the German Cup final against RheinEnergy Cologne 82-80, with a last second lay-up from Mithat Demirel. The Albatross find themselves facing defeat numerous times in the playoffs, but fight back against Frankfurt and Braunschweig to win both series in five games. In addition, captain Henrik Rödl’s shin bone is broken, and he is forced to watch from the sidelines. ALBA remains in the race, however, and ends up beating Bamberg in the finals 3-0, giving them their seventh consecutive German Championship, which equals the record for consecutive titles by Bayer Leverkusen.
The team formed around Jovo Stanojevic, Marko Pesic, Teoman Öztürk, Mithat Demirel, Nino Garris, Vladimir Petrovic, Guido Grünheid, DeJuan Collins and Sascha Leutloff is strengthened by the addition of John Best and Szymon Szewczyk, and later Chuck Evans and Marko Verginella are added for injured players. Berlin votes ALBA BERLIN as “Team of the Year” for the fourth time following their performance in 2003. Plagued again by injuries and inconsistency on the court, ALBA finishes the Euroleague group phase with only 3 wins in 14 games. Then they lose to Frankfurt, the next German Champion, in the German-Cup quarterfinals. But the Albatross fight back and end the regular season in first place after a strong second half run. ALBA falls back 0-2 against Bamberg in the playoff semifinals, but strikes back with a renewed spurt of energy and thanks to the motivation supplied by the return of the until then injured Henrik Rödl: In a memorable game four in Bamberg, ALBA fights back from a 13 point deficit and ties the series. In game five, however, they suffer a clear loss at home, and for the first time in seven years, the German Champion is not ALBA BERLIN. Henrik Rödl ends his eleven year playing career at ALBA and becomes a part of the coaching staff.
ALBA reshuffles and presents a much changed team. Gerald Brown, Tanel Tein, Matej Mamic, Michael Wright, Martynas Mazeika, and Justin Brown bring six new faces to the club. Ex-Albatross Henning Harnisch is signed on as team manager. ALBA begins the ULEB-Cup with a perfect 4-0 start, but after more injuries and a wave of influenza among the team, the wind blows from the other direction and the Albatross lose the remaining six games and do not advance to the main round. When there is also no success in the Bundesliga, the club decides with a heavy heart for radical steps: For the first time in the history of the club, a coach is let go before the end of his contract. The former ALBA player Henrik Rödl takes over the head coach’s position. Just as it seemed things were straightening out, the club was faced with its next obstacle. Michael Wright is charged with doping for using a medicine he had been using, with medical supervision, since his childhood for a ADHS condition and is suspended for the remainder of the season. The shocked Albatross end the regular season in first place, but lose in extremely close games to the Opel Skyliners Frankfurt, 1-3. The long-time assistant coach, Burkhardt Prigge leaves the club.
ALBA initiates a new youth program concept which intensifies the development of young talent in recreational and amateur sports as well as in the competitive sport field. Head coach Henrik Rödl adds Calvin Oldham and Konstantin Lwowsky to the coaching staff. The team of Quadre Lollis, Robert Kulawick, Matej Mamic, Martynas Mazeika, Jovo Stanojevic, Demond Greene, Phillip Zwiener, Nenad Canak, Hollis Price, Sascha Leutloff, Mike Penberthy and Stephen Arigbabu begins the season with a furious start. But on November 26th the most horrible event in club history occurs: Captain Matej Mamic cannot stand up after a collision under the basket and lies motionless on the floor, temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. Although his doctors are more skeptical than positive about his chances of full recovery, Matej fights back step for step over the next months, and regains his abilities for a normal life while gaining support from across Europe. The team, supported from an outstanding fan base, and strengthened by the signing of Luke Whitehead and Sharrod Ford, find their way back into the season norm and capture the German Cup 2006 in Bamberg with a win over GHP Bamberg. In the playoffs, however, the series of injuries continues, as center Jovo Stanojevic is sidelined with an ACL tear and Mike Penberthy fights with a torn groin muscle. The decimated Albatross are caught in the finals by RheinEnergy Cologne, and lose the series 1-3. ALBA’s club members unanimously decide to turn the professional team into a limited liability company.
ALBA begins a one-of-a-kind project for the youth: A gymnasium on the grounds of the Kollwitzplatz Elementary school, which was planned to be torn down, is renovated by ALBA in order to offer youth teams all-day practice possibilities for the coming season. The men’s team, still led by head coach Henrik Rödl, begins the season with high hopes and the new players William Avery, Julius Jenkins, Koko Archibong, Chris Owens and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, but have to again endure an injury shock as Demond Greene goes down in December with twisting break in his ankle, and is sidelined until the playoffs. Matej Mamic announces the end of his playing career in January and becomes part of the ALBA coaching staff. The Albatross qualify for the final 16 of the ULEB-Cup, but face the later champion, Real Madrid, in February, to whom they lose in two high-class games. The beginning of April brings the next unpleasant surprise: Jovo Stanojevic declares his resignation from the club. After an ACL tear injury, he had slowly worked his way back into the team, but lost his patience in the end. ALBA ends the regular season in first place of the Bundesliga, but cannot live up to expectations in the playoffs, losing in the quarterfinals to the later champion runner-up, Artland Dragons from Quakenbrück. Henrik Rödl quits as head coach and becomes head of the ALBA youth program.
The newly aligned team, under new head coach Luka Pavicevic and his assistants Petar Aleksic and Konstantin Lwowsky, seems to be followed by bad luck. Point guard Goran Jeretin is hit with an ACL knee injury in September and cannot play for the entire season. Johannes Herber follows him to rehab in October, with an ACL injury of his own, along with Nico Simon, who suffers a back injury. In order to fill the holes made, Aleksander Rasic is borrowed from Dynamo Moscow. On December 4, the longest game in the European-Cup history is played in an ULEB match-up in the Max-Schmeling-Halle: ALBA wins against Bosna Sarajevo, 141-127 after five overtimes, but does not manage to qualify later for the next round. In February ALBA manages to bring Immanuel McElroy and Aleksandar Nadjfeji from Cologne to Berlin. The Albatross win the regular season, but head into the playoffs without Dijon Thompson, who leaves the team, and Aleksandar Rasic, who is injured. Along with Bobby Brown, Julius Jenkins, Immanuel McElroy, Dragan Dojcin, Goran Nikolic, Aleksandar Nadjfeji, Patrick Femerling and back-up center, Mladen Pantic, ALBA’s young players, Oskar Fassler, Yannick Evans, and especially Phillip Zwiener are challenged to perform. In Game 4 of the playoff finals against the Telekom Baskets Bonn, Julius Jenkins - who had answered the call for ALBA often during the season - seals the 88-79 win with 30 points in an overtime win in Bonn, giving ALBA its eighth German Championship. ALBAs NBBL-Team becomes German youth champion runner-up.
ALBA ventures a further step not only into a huge new venue, but into a new dimension as well with its move into the O2 World Arena. For the first game of the season 14,800 curious fans showed up: a complete sell-out. ALBA doubled its spectator numbers in international competition and topped the European charts with an average of 10,406 fans a game. The Euroleague awards ALBA the Devotion Marketing Award and names Marco Baldi to manager of the year. In the meantime, both old and new ALBA fans enjoy the spectacular basketball their team plays in the Euroleague, where the team surprises all by advancing into the TOP 16. On the national level, the team of Steffen Hamann, Rashad Wright, Johannes Herber, Immanuel McElroy, Julius Jenkins, Casey Jacobsen, Ansu Sesay, Aleksandar Nadjfeji, Dragan Dojcin, Adam Chubb, and center Blagota Sekulic, who was signed in February for the injured Patrick Femerling, show their strength by winning the German Cup. ALBA allows Telekom Baskets Bonn no breathing room, beating them convincingly with aggressive defense 69-44 in the Color Line Arena in Hamburg. However, Coach Luka Pavicevic’s team has a hard time keeping up its good form over the next few months while fighting through a 64 game season, the club’s longest ever. They do manage to come back in the playoff semi-final from a 0-2 start to tie the series at 2-2, but lose 71-82 in the deciding fifth game against Telekom Baskets Bonn, missing the chance to crown an otherwise excellent season with the Championship title. ALBA’s NBBL team wins the german Championship.
ALBA celebrate a memorable season opener by celebrating its 20th anniversary in the Sömmeringhalle with a reunion including the return of the first championship team (1997), as well as many former team memebers. The Albatross enter the season with an almost unchanged roster and Luka Pavicevic’s team faces its first major challenge in the first week of the season in the Euroleague qualification round. ALBA makes it over the first hurdle with a win over Le Mans, but stumbles in the deciding second round in a close call against the Greek team, Maroussi. ALBA plays in the Eurocup instead, where they repeatedly show strong performances. 14, 500 fans stream into the O2 World for the quarterfinals against Hapoel Jerusalem – a new Eurocup Record! ALBA qualifies for the final four tournament in Vitoria, which marks the biggest success ever for a German team in the second highest level of European competition. Circa 600 fans want to support their team in Spain, but due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland which completely stops most of the European air traffic, only around 50 fans brave the difficult bus ride through Europe and make it to Vitoria to witness how ALBA – led from Adam Chubb’s 27 points- manages to beat the local favorite, Bizkaia Bilbao in front of 5000 home fans. In the finals 24 hours later, ALBA cannot find the strength to compete with the dominant team from Valencia and fall 44-67. In the following national playoffs, although finishing second in the regular season (tied in the rankings with first place Oldenburg), and boasting a new Bundesliga record of over 10,000 spectators per game, ALBA cannot seem to find its rhythm, and loses 1-3 in the quarterfinals against the Frankfurt Skyliners. Both ALBA’s NBBL and JBBL teams make it to the finals of the German Championship in the TOP4 in Bamberg.