“101 Greats of European Basketball,” a limited-edition collection published in 2018 by Euroleague Basketball, honors more than six decades’ worth of stars who helped lift the sport on the Old Continent to its present-day heights. Author Vladimir Stankovic, who began covering many of those greats in 1969, uses their individual stories and profiles to show that European basketball’s roots run long and deep at the same time that the sport here is nurtured by players from around the world, creating a true team dynamic unlike anywhere else. His survey covers players who were retired before the book was published and who inspired the many others who came after them. Enjoy!
Carlton Myers – The 87-point man
Forum Valladolid was never one of the big clubs in Spain. It never won any titles, but it has the honor of having had on its roster three of the greatest players in European basketball: Arvydas Sabonis, Oscar Schmidt and Carlton Myers. The “Lithuanian Tzar” and the “Brazilian Holy Hand” were perhaps better known than the Italian shooter with Jamaican origins, but he was nearly as prolific. Carlton Ettore Francesco Myers was born on March 30, 1971, in London, where his parents worked. When he was 10 years old, the family moved to Rimini, a small Italian city on the Adriatic coast where, until he turned 17, nobody saw Carlton as a future basketball star.
Trading in the flute
Carlton’s father was a musician, a saxophonist, and it was logical that his son would follow his footsteps, even though he chose the flute. In between school and music lessons, young Myers played basketball. But before turning 17, it was only a hobby. Little by little, however, basketball started taking over and ended up defeating the flute. Carlton Myers dropped music school, convinced that his future was in basketball. From 1988 to 1992 he played in the Italian second division for Mar Rimini. He started out scoring 2.5 points in the 1988-89 season, and in the next one, he improved to 5.9 points. His true explosion came in 1991-92, when he averaged 26.8 points! After shining in the Italian second division, he signed for Scavolini Pesaro as the great prospect of Italian basketball. During his first season, in 39 games, he averaged 16.8 points while shooting 33.5% from the arc, his biggest weapon in the decade that was about to follow.
In a story published in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo during the holiday break of 1992, his Scavolini teammate Haywoode Workman explained Scavolini’s playing system: “It’s pretty simple. It’s about giving the ball to Carlton so that he decides what to do with it at the right time.”
That’s the same recipe used by all coaches who were fortunate enough to have Myers on their team. Standing at 1.92 meters, he was a natural-born shooting guard, but his talent had much more in store. His shot, especially from downtown, was his lethal weapon, but many times he was the best passer or rebounder on his team, too.
Index rating 94!
During his second season with Scavolini, Myers’ scoring average was already 25.1 points and he was shooting 40.7% on threes. For the 1994-95 season, he went back to Rimini, in the second division, where he scored 29.6 points per game. On January 26, 1995, he etched his name in the history books of Italian and European basketball by scoring 87 points against Udine, the most ever at the Italian professional level. His previous personal high was 51 points with Scavolini in the first division. Against Udine, Myers had an incredible shooting night: 14 of 22 two-pointers, 9 of 19 threes and 32 of 35 free throws. His final index rating was 94! As far as I know, nobody in the modern era of European basketball has reached those numbers, even though Myers did it in the Italian second division. Nikola Mirotic of Real Madrid had an index rating of 84 at the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Ciutat de L’Hospitalet tournament in 2008.
Those 87 points by Myers are not a European record, however. The world record at the professional level belongs to Erman Kunter, who managed to score 153 points, 81 in the first half, with Fenerbahce in the Turkish League against Hilaspor in 1988. Other great performances include Radivoj Korac scoring 99 points against Alvik Stockholm during the 1965 EuroLeague; Drazen Petrovic destroying the Union Olimpija junior team (sent to the game by the club’s decision after a sanction) with 112 points in the first game of the 1985-86 season; and Zdenko Babic of Zadar tallying 144 points against Apoel of Cyprus in a Korac Cup game a week later. But in the last 25 years in Europe, nobody has touched Carlton Myers’ mark. What is true about Myers’ performance is that, after three quarters, the coach and his teammates realized it could be a historic milestone and they looked for Myers on each play.
Between 1995 and 2001 Myers played with Fortitudo Bologna, before playing the following three seasons with Virtus Roma and then spending the first half of the 2004-05 season with Montepaschi Siena and the second half in Spain with Forum Valladolid (21.3 points in 28 games). After that, Myers went back to Italy and Scavolini and then, in 2010, he put an end to a brilliant career with Riviera of Rimini. Behind him were 637 Italian League games with an average of 19.5 points. Over those many games, he had made 39.4% of his three-point shots, 51.4% of his two-pointers and 85.2% of his free throws. Myers was Italian champ with Fortitudo in 2000 and also won the Italian Supercup and Italian Cup with the same team in 1998, being named MVP of the final. He was named MVP of the Italian League twice, in 1994 and 1997, and he was the top scorer of the EuroLeague in 1997. But one can see that he is still missing a European title at the club level. He tried several times, but he never went farther than the semifinals. However, Myers still holds a EuroLeague record: his 41 points against Real Madrid on March 7, 2001, is still – together with Alphonso Ford, Bobby Brown and Kaspars Kambala – the best scoring mark in the modern-day EuroLeague since 2000. In that game, which Fortitudo won 88-70, Myers had also a performance index rating of 45, his highest.
Crown in Paris
However, Myers’ results with the Italian national team made up for his lack of international titles with clubs. He made his debut in blue during the 1993 EuroBasket in Germany and did well, scoring 14.3 points per game. After missing the 1995 EuroBasket in Athens, he was back for the following one in 1997 in Barcelona and he won the silver medal after Italy fell to Yugoslavia in the final 61-49. Myers was the top scorer in that final, with 17 points. In the group stage, Italy defeated Yugoslavia 74-69 thanks to 24 points from Myers, but in the title game, Yugoslavia was better with Predrag Danilovic at the helm. The rivalry between Myers and Danilovic had moved from Bologna – the former with Fortitudo, the latter with Virtus – to the international stage. At the 1997 EuroBasket, Carlton Myers’ final figures were 15.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
The best was yet to come, though. In the 1999 EuroBasket in France, Myers led Italy all the way to the gold medal. His 16.3 points, 3.0 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 30 minutes per game were key for the Italian triumph. In the title game against Spain, a 64-56 victory, he scored 18 points. He nailed 22 against Turkey, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and then had 20 points against the Czech Republic. Coach Bogdan Tanjevic had a kind of life insurance with Carlton Myers, the man who scored when the team needed it most. He scored many points from the foul line because he kept drawing fouls when shooting or penetrating. However, fouling him was not a very good idea because he hardly ever missed from the line. Over his career, Myers made 85% of his free throws.
At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the great career of Carlton Myers was recognized by the Italian Olympic Committee, too, as he was chosen to be the Italian flag bearer during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony.
Myers scored 40 or more points 17 times in the Italian League, however, his feats did not always result in a win.
“Scoring more than 40 points and losing the game kills me,” he said many times. “It’s just a useless performance and the truth is that it makes me feel bad because we didn’t reach the main goal, which is winning the game.” An example was him scoring 41 points in the fifth game of the final series of the Italian League in 1997 with Fortitudo against Benetton Treviso. His team lost the game, and the title, by the score of 84-82.
When Myers retired, at 40 years old, the then president of the Italian basketball federation, legend Dino Meneghin, said about him:
“I hope that young players today can watch and study the videos to see how he played. Carlton Myers was an example for everyone.”
I agree 100 percent. If young players want to see how a great shooting guard should do his job, I also recommend watching Carlton Myers videos.