The Ultimate Guide to the Game of Basketball in Russia

Despite being considered as an American sport, basketball has become popular in some countries over the years. A few of these countries are Japan, Philippines, and Russia. In Russia, it is a very popular sport, especially when the Russian national basketball team won several international titles. In fact, Russia is the home to many internationally recognized basketball players, including Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov, who became NBA champion in 2016.

If you’re into basketball and want to know more about basketball in Russia, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you the ultimate guide to the game of basketball in Russia.

The Russian Basketball Federation

The Russian Basketball Federation or RBF is the national governing body of basketball in Russia. It is the successor to the Soviet Basketball Federation and was founded in 1991. The Russian Basketball Federation has three leagues, which are the Russian Professional Basketball League, the Russian Super League 1, and the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.

  • Russian Professional Basketball League

    The Professional Basketball League or PBL of Russia was the pre-eminent men’s professional basketball league in Russia. It is the successor of the Russian Super League 1, which is the second-tier division of the Russian basketball league system today. This is was also the second version o the Russian Professional Basketball Championship. The PBL was established in 2010, and it has 10 teams in its inaugural 2010-11 seasons.

  • Russian Super League 1

    The Russian Super League 1, or also knows as the Super Liga 1, was a men’s professional basketball league that was the pre-eminent league of Russian professional basketball until 2010. As mentioned earlier, it is currently in the second-tier division of the Russian professional basketball pyramid. After it became the first-tier division of Russian basketball from its first season in 1991, it was relegated to being the second-tier division in 2010 and was replaced with a different league.

  • Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League

    The Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League is the leading basketball competition for women in Russia. It consists of 11 teams playing a total of 20 rounds. Every end of the regular season, the top eight teams play the play-offs throughout April, which is a total of 5 matches. The Women’s Basketball Premier League has been successful in the Euroleague since the 2000s, thanks to many foreign players.

The Russian Professional Basketball Championship

The Russian Professional Basketball Championship is Russia’s top-tier level men’s professional club basketball competition. During the Soviet Union era, the national championship for Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic clubs was the USSR Premier League.

From seasons 1991-92 to 2009-10, the winner of the Super League 1 was awarded the top-level Russian national championship. The PBL was the highest tier in Russia for three seasons. During the 2013-14 season, the VTB United League was named the new top-level national domestic competition for Russian clubs. It is a regional league for Eastern Europe, and it is not governed by the Russian Basketball Federation.

Russia Men’s National Basketball Team

The men’s national basketball in Russia represents the country in the international basketball competition. They are organized and run by the RBF. The team was formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its national team.

During the post-Soviet era, the Russian national team involving Soviet players under the guidance of Sergei Belov continued to be one of the strongest teams in the world. In 1993, they won the silver medal at the EuroBasket. They also won silver at the World Cup in 1994 and 1998. However, when Belov departed, Russia faced multiple disappointments in basketball, until David Blatt came and took over as head coach. Under Blatt’s guidance, Russia’s national basketball team became champions at EuroBasket 2007. Aside from that, they also won bronze medals at EuroBasket 20111 and as well as in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

When Blatt left the staff, the national basketball team of Russia saw a deep crisis. This was due to the corruption in the RBF and the conflict of the federation with the International Basketball Federation or FIBA. Due to this, the national team played poorly, and it was partly because most of their top players refused to participate. The team has a failed performance at EuroBasket 2015. After this, they also did not qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics

The situation only started to stabilize after the members of the RBF were dismissed, including president Yulia Anikeeva. Currently, the head coach of the men’s national basketball team is Sergei Bazarevich.

Popular Basketball Players in Russia

Here are some of the most popular basketball players in Russia:

  • Sergey Karasev

    He is a Russian professional basketball player for BC Khimki of the VTB United League and the EuroLeague. In the 2013 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was drafted with the 19th pick.

  • Victor Khryapa

    He is a Russian professional basketball player who last played for CSKA Moscow of the VTB United League. In 2010, he won the EuroLeague Best Defender award. He also won two bronze medals at the 2011 EuroBasket and at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

  • Andrei Kirilenko

    He is a Russian basketball executive and retired professional basketball player. He is currently the Russian Basketball Federation’s commissioner. He started playing professional basketball in the Russian Super League at age fifteen. He’s nicknamed “AK-47”, in reference to his initials and the jersey number that he wore.

  • Timofey Mozgov

    He is a Russian professional basketball player for Khimki of the VTB United League and the Euroleague. In 2016, he won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which made him the first Russian to do so, along with Sasha Kaun. He also signed with the Lakers in 2016 before being traded to the Nets the following year’s offseason. And in 2018, he was traded to Orlando Magic before he returned with Khimki in 2019.

Basketball is indeed a very popular sport in Russia, and their rules are no different from how the game is played in the United States. No wonder their national team is one of the best in the world. Many of their players are also part of great teams in the National Basketball Association. We hope the information we shared here helped you learn more about basketball in Russia.