Nikola Jokić (on the right) is Mega’s most famous alumnus. Source: Mega korvpalliklubi kodulehekülg
Nikola Jokić (on the right) is Mega’s most famous alumnus. Source: Mega korvpalliklubi kodulehekülg

KK Mega – the unicorn of European basketball

Basketball OlyBet 10.07.2024

Which European basketball club has produced the most NBA draft picks? The answer might surprise you. It’s not one of the traditional powerhouses of the Old World, but a team established in December 1998, which hit its stride two decades ago.

In this year’s draft, only one player from this club was selected – Nikola Đurišić, picked 43rd by the Miami Heat before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks. However, in total, 16 players have been drafted from this club, and in this ranking, second place is shared by big clubs Barcelona and Partizan Belgrade, each with 14 players.

The club in question hasn’t just produced young talents, but players who have gone on to have stellar careers. The best example is Nikola Jokić, one of the world’s best basketball players. Vasilije Micić, the king of the EuroLeague, also deserves mention.

Though the list of draftees includes a Frenchman, a Georgian, and a Guinean, the names suggest where this club operates. This story is about Mega, a Belgrade-based Serbian team that swims against the tide in European basketball. While rosters are usually composed of experienced players – success in Old World basketball being paramount – Mega focuses on players at the beginning of their basketball journeys.

Why? Patience, dear readers, patience.

The influence of a super-agent

Today’s Mega, which has had various sponsor names over the past two decades, began with employees of the Avala Ada packaging factory who were basketball enthusiasts.

In the late 1990s, the club consisted of factory employees and outside recruits, with Avala Ada’s marketing director, Bratislav Gajić, serving as the first captain. Naturally, they started at the bottom of the league pyramid, the fifth tier.

As time went on, the club became more professional and successful. By the 2003/04 season, they reached the second league. However, in 2003, Avala Ada was privatized, and the new owner, Nebojša Šaranović, was less interested in supporting the team, aiming to sell it instead.

Finding a partner didn’t take long. Enter the legendary Miško Ražnatović and his company, BeoBasket. Without a doubt, Ražnatović, now 57, is the most influential and famous agent in the European basketball market. Dozens of EuroLeague players are under BeoBasket’s umbrella, and their client list includes NBA players like Jokić and Micić.

The initial agreement was for BeoBasket to handle the club’s sporting aspects, while Avala Ada managed other matters. However, over time, the packaging factory faded from the picture, and BeoBasket took full control.

Ražnatović’s clear vision

Under Ražnatović’s leadership, Mega immediately focused on young players, aiming to develop them and provide significant roles and playing time they might not get elsewhere. For the past two decades, Mega has stayed true to this course.

The first team assembled under BeoBasket’s management included two names familiar to basketball fans: the powerful Montenegrin center Nikola Peković, who also reached the NBA, and Serbian forward Marko Kešelj, who won the EuroLeague with Olympiacos in 2012.

Ražnatović also understood that young players required experienced teammates to guide them. This role was filled by Aleksandar Čubrilo and Slađan Stojković. This mix of veterans and rookies earned promotion to the top league in the 2004/05 season.

Ražnatović’s approach has faced criticism, with some arguing his primary goal is to make money. The better his agency’s players, the higher the agent fees. However, various interviews with Ražnatović and his clients suggest his passion for basketball and desire to help and protect players. He doesn’t do this job for the money.

Mega has also propelled coaches, not just players. A prime example is Dejan Milojević, who coached Mega for eight seasons and 345 games, winning 173. Milojević, affectionately known as Deki, later joined the NBA’s Golden State Warriors as an assistant coach. Tragically, he passed away due to a heart attack during a team dinner in January 2024.

In honor of Milojević, Mega renamed their training center, built in 2017, after the late coach.

Success on the court

While player development is Mega’s priority, they’ve also achieved success on the court. Their senior team has won the Serbian Cup, reached the finals three times, and secured second place in both the Serbian Championship and the Adriatic League.

Mega has also competed in European competitions, including the inaugural season of the Basketball Champions League in 2016/17, where they finished second to last in their group.

More importantly, Mega’s youth academy is one of Europe’s strongest, dominating Serbian youth leagues for years. They’ve also shone in the EuroLeague’s Adidas Next Generation Tournament, winning the 2022 finals, with Đurišić named MVP.

While Ražnatović’s approach hasn’t garnered a trove of titles, Mega has achieved his primary goal: young players receive opportunities, develop, and climb the career ladder. For this European super-agent and basketball fanatic, money is simply a byproduct.


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