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heinnews’s David Hein went to the decisive Game 5 of the German BBL basketball playoffs and watched Brose Baskets Bamberg beat Alba Berlin 72-65 to defend their league title and collect their fourth German league crown in the past seven years. Amid the celebrations in Bamberg, Hein spoke with Bamberg coach Chris Fleming and team captain Casey Jacobsen about their feelings after the long, strenuous season; the quality of the German BBL and the league’s vision to become the best domestic league in Europe by 2020.

heinnews: I have to admit I’m kind of scared standing next to you with all this beer around me.
Fleming: Well, I already got my beer bath. I need to drink one of these soon.

heinnews: Well, you’ll have plenty of time for that. So, congratulations, how does this feel?
Fleming: I can’t describe this. We won them both last year and we won the cup. Nothing compares to this. This was so much harder to win than the championship last year. The entire time to have this pressure that the guys had to deal with the whole season long, last season we were coming from behind, this season we were up front the whole time. They dealt with it great. They never panicked when they got down. When things didn’t go well, we stayed cool. And tonight you saw that the guys always believed that they would win and never doubted themselves. And they earned it.

heinnews: The whole playoffs and the Finals in particular were a real battle, talk a bit about the quality of the BBL.
Fleming: If you look at the semi-finals and the finals we had three Games 5s. We had five Game 5s over all. I think the parity is really clear, which is not that way in other leagues in Europe. Berlin is an excellent team. Artland extended us to five. There are really six teams who if they play well in the end can win the championship. That’s what makes the Bundesliga so interesting. The finals was especially difficult. The guys were on fumes the entire playoffs – really, really tired. And Berlin had no pressure once they got in and played a great series, no doubt about it. But luckily we found the energy in our home games and decided it for us.

heinnews: There’s a big, lofty goal by the BBL to be the number one domestic league in Europe by 2020, how realistic is that goal and how close are we?
Fleming: If you take the Euroleague and you look at that and you look purely of the quality of play, we’re not the best league in Europe for sure. I think the infrastructure is outstanding, and that’s important right now. You saw in the Finals, we have sellouts of 7,000 and in Berlin we had 14,000. There’s an interest in basketball, people are watching basketball. The German league has great infrastructure and over the next years we’ll definitely grow in quality as well. The Germans have started to present themselves better internationally. And we’re going in a good direction.

heinnews: Talk a bit about this week for German basketball – first with Dirk Nowitzki winning the NBA title with Dallas and then Bamberg and Berlin giving basketball fans two more great games in the Finals.
Fleming: I don’t know Dirk personally. But it does so good for us as coaches to see a guy who is the hardest worker win the championship. On top of that he’s German. So it’s great for the German league. And obviously the parity is absolutely fantastic. The league will continue to grow in the coming years.

heinnews: Okay, I will let you celebrate.
Fleming: Thanks

heinnews: Casey, congrats on the title. Don’t suppose this ever gets old.
Jacobsen: It doesn’t ever get old and I don’t want it to ever stop. What our team’s done this year is really amazing. Coming into this season we were the heavy favorites to defend the championship. And we accepted that responsibility, accepted that pressure, accepted the expectations, and we rose to the occasion. It’s not easy to win a championship when everyone thinks you’re going to and everyone in the entire league wants to beat you. But this team stepped up. And we played as a team. We never had one guy doing all the work, we never had two guys doing all the work. It was everybody. This is a championship for team basketball. Of all the championships I’ve won here, this was the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.

heinnews: Bamberg and Berlin gave German basketball fans a great finals series. Talk a bit about the quality of the German BBL in relation to the Finals and compared internationally.
Jacobsen: I want to talk about the BBL to anyone who will listen. I think for many years before 2000 I don’t think the German league gets the respect that it deserves. But if you look at the past five years the teams that compete in the Euroleague, the Eurocup and the EuroChallenge, they do well. This league has a good reputation of taking care of its players, playing good basketball. I’m very proud to be a part of this league. I’ve played in Spain, I’ve played in almost every country at the Euroleague level, and this is where I want to be. This is an elite club as well. Brose Baskets is starting to gain respect amongst all of Europe as a club that can beat anybody.

heinnews: The German BBL has announced the goal of becoming the number one domestic league in Europe by 2020. How realistic do you think that goal is?
Jacobsen: I don’t know much about the business of basketball. But the way this league has been attracting some really good talent, I would say that the league is much better than it was in 2007 as far as the skill level and the talent that is over here. And that’s only been four seasons that it has grown. And if the entire league has very ambitious goals to continue to improve I don’t see why they could not do that. Germany the country is a beautiful place to live. Though the world is struggling, the German economy appears to me to remain strong. It’s a great place to raise a family. The support is great. You can go to any arena in the Bundesliga and it’s packed almost every night. They love basketball here. Okay, it’s not football. But they can support it.

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