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Vlado Micov: the great story of Olimpia’s Professor


In baseball it’s called the “walk-off home run”, it’s the home run you hit in the last inning, the one that closes the game without giving the opponent a chance to respond. In basketball, the closest thing to a walk-off home run is the buzzer beating field goal. Over the four years he spent at Olimpia, Vlado Micov made three buzzer-beating field goals. One happened against Cremona, in the Italian league, from the right corner. Another in Venice, a very difficult three from the top (not exactly a buzzer beating basket but close to it). Finally, one took place in Valencia in the EuroLeague, another top of the key three followed by, yes, it is on video, a brief, shy gesture of joy, one of the very rare ones that Vlado rarely indulged in. “I’m like this, once in Istanbul after winning the Eurocup during a television interview they asked me about these cold reactions, but I don’t have an explanation that’s how I am,” he says. And yet, if you look carefully, Micov often had small gestures of joy, a clenched fist, a signal, but always after a teammate play, not his own.

In everyone’s eyes there is that reaction close to the limits of indifference after the block with which Andrew Goudelock saved the win in Game 5 of the 2018 championship final. 12,000 people drunk with joy and one guy, motionless, in the corner. “I was a bad teammate,” he admitted. But without believing it, because at that exact moment he was simply absorbed by two aspects: Olimpia had been lucky to win that game and, more important, that play made by Goudelock had not yet won the championship for everyone. Vlado was thinking. He was thinking about Game 6 in two days.

Vlado Micov came to Milan in the summer of 2017. He was 32 years old. The perception was of a player at the end of his career, coming from the two-year experience in Moscow and another stint at Galatasaray. But in his first two years in Milan, Micov was one of the most used players in the EuroLeague, and, in his last season at Olimpia, he found a way to play in his third EuroLeague Final Four. He won a championship in Milan, he won an Italian Cup, he won the Super Cup three times. He played over 100 EuroLeague games, the second ever, after Kaleb Tarczewski, to cross that milestone. In the EuroLeague no one has scored more than him while wearing proudly the Olimpia jersey. Counting the previous era, only Bob McAdoo remained in front of him. Just sixty points away. While he’s unselfish to a fault sometimes and though he’d never sacrificed a single win for a personal record, that was a list he’d had a look at over the past years. Somehow, he cared. Just like, in the only narcissistic concession of his career, he was happy to have been nicknamed “The Professor”. “It implies that I play smart and that’s something I’m proud of,” he says.

Vlado comes from Belgrade, he had an important career with the Serbian National youth teams, including the Under 16 European gold in 2001 and the Under 20 bronze in 2005. He went through various experiences, the youth teams of Beopetrol Belgrade then Nova Pazova, OKK Belgrade, Buducnost in two different moments during which he won two Montenegrin titles and three cups in the decisive seasons of its evolution as a player, and Partizan where it conquered the Serbian title. His path has not been linear: in 2009 he was traded to Panionios Athens, then he also played in Vitoria but didn’t find any stability. So, the turning point came when he was 25 years old, perhaps later than expected, with the move to Cantù, with the EuroLeague participation, and some crucial seasons. In essence, he took one step back to move two steps forward. From Cantù he took the flight to CSKA Moscow, where he made the EuroLeague Final Four twice. He was at the top of the European game, he was a starter (in the second year he shot 48.8 percent from three, the best in his career). After CSKA, he went to Galatasaray for another three years, winning a Eurocup in 2016 (and was included in the All-Eurocup first team).After four years in Milan, Micov made one last stop at Buducnost, where his top-level career had begun. Then he retired. Since then he has never returned to Milan as an opponent. It was not possible to give him the right recognition, as was the case for Sergio Rodriguez for example a couple of months ago. The game against Olympiacos will be an opportunity to celebrate him for what he did and above all for how he did it.