There have been many surprising, you might even say shocking victories in League history. Anything can happen when a title contender loses to a cellar-dweller, from a shakeup in the standings to firing the head coach.
That’s what happened over the weekend as Kalev took down one of the League’s most talented teams in Lokomotiv-Kuban. Kalev, in the end, re-wrote history, defeating Krasnodar for the first time, while Loko ended up firing Sasa Obradovic the following day.
That was easily the biggest upset of the season so far, but how does it compare to the biggest surprises of seasons past?
March 7, 2012, Nymburk, Czech Republic
Disturbers of the peace: Chester Simmons (24 points, six rebounds), Lamayn Wilson (13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists).
CSKA’s loss in the Czech Republic was the biggest upset of the 2011-12 season. Nymburk was nothing special that season, failing to even reach the postseason (7th in a 9-team group). But the home team put it all together in a home game vs. CSKA. Led by Chester Simmons (24 points), the Czechs shut down CSKA’s offense in the second half (21 points in 20 minutes) to enjoy their biggest win ever.
March 3, 2013, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Semyon Antonov (17 points, four rebounds), Dijon Thompson (14 points, 13 rebounds).
Nizhny Novgorod, playing its first season in the League, stunned the Army Men the following year. The Volga club secured the historic upset at home led by Dijon Thompson. The forward was everywhere in the final minute and knocked down the game-winning shot.
November 24, 2013, Tallinn, Estonia
Disturbers of the peace: Vlad Moldoveanu (17 points, 12 rebounds), Frank Elegar (two points, 12 rebounds, four blocks).
UNICS assembled a strong roster in 2013, led by star Andrew Goudelock. The American averaged 19.8 points per game over the campaign, but Kazan at times was too dependent on its leader. Goudelock shot only 24% (5-21) from the field in Tallinn, as Kalev was able to win with only 60 points.
May 17, 2014, Khimki, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Semyon Antonov (21 points, eight rebounds, three assists), Dmitry Khvostov (14 points, six assists).
Khimki enjoyed a perfect 2013-14 regular season, going undefeated, including two wins over crosstown rival CSKA. But in the first game of the playoffs, Khimki suffered a devastating setback. Petr Gubanov hit a sensational buzzer-beater to give Nizhny Novgorod the win, and ultimately the series, as the underdogs went on to sweep the demoralized #1 seed.
December 6, 2014, Saratov, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Courtney Fortson (22 points, seven assists, five rebounds), Micah Downs (14 points, 12 rebounds).
Avtodor was a legitimate threat in its debut season, defeating Khimki, UNICS and CSKA, in addition to Loko. But before the game vs. Krasnodar, the Black and White looked lackluster, opening the season with a 2-7 record. The win over Kuban turned the season around. Despite 33 points from Lokomotiv’s Derrick Brown, Avtodor was able to overcome the visitors thanks to strong performances from Fortson, Peterson, Chappell and Downs, who combined for 69 points.
March 22, 2015, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Kaspars Berzins (24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists), Viktor Zaryazhko (23 points, seven rebounds, five assists).
These two teams generally competed at the same level in the VTB League. But in the spring of 2015, Nizhny was in the EuroLeague and ranked as one of Russia’s top clubs. Antonov, Rochestie, Kinsey, Khvostov and Parakhouski led the way for Nizhny. Samara, on the other hand, had been forced to release almost all of its star players due to financial trouble. Only one foreign player was available for this game (Kaspars Berzins), along with a bunch of youngsters. But Berzins dominated the contest, finishing with a double-double: 24 points and 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Viktor Zaryazhko (23 points), Anton Glazunov (16 points) and Evgeny Fidii (11 points) also had a part in the win.
April 11, 2015, Khimki, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Elmedin Kikanovic (24 points, eight rebounds), Evgeny Kolesnikov (18 points, four rebounds, four assists).
Khimki went three seasons without losing at home in the VTB League regular season. CSKA, UNICS, Loko and Zenit failed where Enisey succeeded. The most shocking aspect of the win was that Enisey had little motivation, having already been eliminated from postseason contention. Nonetheless, the Siberians played Khimki even for three quarters, before pulling away in the 4th thanks to 10 points from Elmedin Kikanovic.
October 7, 2015, Kazan, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Branko Mirkovic (17 points, four assists, three rebounds), Justin Gray (13 points, five assists, five rebounds).
The first upset of the 2015-16 season took place in Week 1. UNICS’s star-studded roster led by Keith Langford clearly underestimated its opponent. Minsk took control in the opening minutes and never let go. Kazan attempted a furious comeback, but ultimately ran out of time. Six different players scored in double digits for Tsmoki (Mirkovic – 17, Maras – 16, Stutz – 16, Gray – 13, Kudrautsau – 11, Hilliard – 10).
October 25, 2015, Loimaa, Finland
Disturbers of the peace: Martin Zeno (15 points, 8 rebounds, four assists), Ike Udanoh (14 points).
Delaney, Singleton, Draper, Claver, Broekhoff. Kuban brought a loaded roster to Finland, but couldn’t solve the Bisons. Despite entering the game without a win, the Finnish underdogs took down a League contender in shocking fashion. Leading most of the game, Bisons survived a wild finish, preventing Loko from scoring on the final possession.
October 25, 2015, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Ivan Viktorov (16 points), Kaspars Berzins (13 points, seven rebounds).
Despite a talented roster, Nizhny Novgorod went 0-7 vs. CSKA the previous season between the VTB League and EuroLeague. But the Volga club broke through in 2015 with only three foreign players (Rudd, Berzins, Mahalbasic). Ivan Viktorov enjoyed a memorable performance, lighting up the Army Men and their loaded backcourt of De Colo, Teodosic and Higgins. Viktorov finished 5-6 from the field (3-4 on 3-pointers) with 16 points to lead his team in scoring.
October 8, 2016, Khimki, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Martins Meiers (19 points, five rebounds), Janis Blums (17 points).
Khimki had won 15 in a row vs. VEF prior to this game. Despite playing without Alexey Shved, the home team was a significant favorite. But Riga had other designs. The visitors’ pick-and-roll offense with Martins Meiers on the attack (19 points) repeatedly exposed Khimki’s offense. Black and White veteran Janis Blums, meanwhile, delivered the fatal blow. Two 3-pointers and spot-on free throws gave the Latvians a sensational win.
January 7, 2018, Tallinn, Estonia
Disturbers of the peace: Thomas van der Mars (15 points, five rebounds), Bojan Subotic (14 points, seven rebounds).
Khimki struggled with consistency last season in the VTB League, with many viewing the game in Tallinn as rock bottom. The Estonians slapped Khimki around in the first half (57-38) and overcame a 30-point performance from Alexey Shved to secure a win.
Following the loss to Kalev, Khimki general director Pavel Astakhov delivered his now-infamous locker room speech.
February 3, 2018, Krasnodar, Russia
Disturbers of the peace: Micah Downs (22 points, six rebounds), Justin Robinson (17 points, 10 assists).
Loko entered the game on an 11-game winning streak and was expected to coast at home vs. Avtodor, with the visitors missing key contributors in Shaq McKissic and Branden Frazier. To make matters worse for Saratov, Artem Klimenko was forced to exit with an injury early in the game.
Playing with six men, Avtodor managed to do the unthinkable, overcoming a double-digit deficit in the 3rd quarter before surging into the lead. The game was decided in the final seconds as Maxim Sheleketo hit the game-winning buzzer-beater.
February 11, 2018, Astana, Kazakhstan
Disturbers of the peace: Ike Udanoh (21 points, 10 rebounds), Anthony Clemmons (17 points, five rebounds).
Astana has often given top teams fits at home. But this win vs. Zenit may have been the most memorable. St. Petersburg hung around for the first half before Astana seized control. The home team was especially dominant in the 4th quarter, allowing only two points in the first nine minutes. Thrashed by 23, Zenit nearly recorded a season low in points.
November 3, 2018, Krasnodar, Russia
Of the League’s top teams, Loko may lead the way in upset defeats, many of which have come at home. VEF, Enisey, Nizhny Novgorod and Avtodor all tasted victory in Krasnodar before this season. Now Kalev joins the club.
The Estonians entered the contest short-handed, leaving Sokk, Almeida, Kangur and Keedus behind in Tallinn. But the visitors went on to record the biggest upset yet, shooting 13-27 from beyond the arc in the victory. With the score tight down the stretch, Kalev hit more clutch shots to secure the win.