- National Teams
The curtain gets drawn on the 2021-22 BBL season at The O2 Arena in London today as Leicester Riders and London Lions go head-to-head to decide the playoffs champions.
Leicester swept their way through the league with just two defeats on their way to another BBL Championship title. They finished with an impressive 25-2 record having added the Cup title in January, though their hopes of a sweep were ended by Bristol in the BBL Trophy first round.
London had a mixed league campaign as they also battled in Europe and made history of their own by getting through to the Second Round stage of the FIBA Europe Cup having picked up five wins in the initial group phase. Their league campaign picked up again as they secured third place on the final weekend with a 16-11 record.
In the playoffs, Leicester overcame a spirited challenge from eighth seeds Plymouth City Patriots as they eventually progressed 174-158 on aggregate before a far more convincing 209-162 overall triumph followed against Glasgow Rocks in the semi-finals. London saw a 16-point first leg advantage wiped out by Cheshire Phoenix in the second leg before they recovered to advance in a 180-166 victory and they also needed a strong finish to overcome Bristol 176-156 in the last four.
— Leicester Riders 🏆🏆 (@RidersBball) May 14, 2022
Leicester have made The O2 feel like home with three successive triumphs from 2016-18 and another victory on Sunday would give them their sixth playoffs title, overall. Rob Paternostro’s side have achieved a season treble on three previous occasions – including back-to-back in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns – and have the chance to add to their league and Cup titles.
Geno Crandall has just been confirmed as a back-to-back league MVP after edging out teammate Pat Whelan in the voting by coaches having also starred in the BBL Cup final as MVP. Captain Darien Nelson-Henry has had another consistently solid season and the Riders’ depth has once again been one of their major strengths as they continue to have success in the BBL.
The Lions won a league and Cup double in the 2018-19 season before adding the Trophy to their recent collection in 2021, but the club has still never won the playoffs. They have lost two finals at The O2; in 2015 against Newcastle and in 2018 against Leicester as well as losing in last year’s post-season finale.
Isaiah Reese finished third in the league’s MVP voting after an impressive debut season in the league, while Dirk Williams was an early contender before suffering an injury in the second half of the year. The sharpshooter returned to form in their playoffs victory over Bristol Flyers last week, while Kylor Kelley has been one of the league’s top rim protectors and the Lions will need their stars to align to secure a maiden playoffs triumph.