Mario Chalmers now has a European basketball championship to go with his one NCAA title at Kansas, two NBA crowns with the Miami Heat and two state high school titles at Bartlett High in Anchorage, Alaska.
Chalmers, a 6-foot-2, 32-year-old combo guard, who played on KU’s 2008 NCAA title team and the Miami Heat’s 2012 and 2013 NBA championship squads, scored eight points — including two off a crucial turnaround jumper down the stretch — in Virtus Bologna’s 73-61 victory over Iberostar Tenerife in the 2019 Basketball Champions League title game contested Sunday in Antwerp, Belgium.
Chalmers also had two assists and two rebounds in 19 minutes for Virtus Bologna, a team based in Italy. Iberostar Tenerife is based out of Spain.
Chalmers’ bucket in the lane with 1:13 remaining stretched a six-point lead to eight and proved pivotal for a Virtus Bologna team that had a 17-point lead dip to six points during crunch time.
“I just wanted to leave an everlasting mark, do what I could to help the team,” Chalmers told ballineurope.com after the game. “I was able to get to my spot and knock it down,” Chalmers added.
The same player who forced overtime by hitting a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left against Memphis in the 2008 NCAA title game (KU went on to win in OT, 75-68) this time accepted a pass well past the three-point line in front of the Tenerife bench with 1:23 to play and Virtus leading, 65-59. Chalmers first waved for his teammates to clear out. He then dribbled past a defender into the lane, stopped at 10-feet from the goal, spun, and flipped in a jumper that swished.
Up by eight points, Virtus was not threatened again.
“Huge,” the game’s MVP, Kevin Punter, told sportsrabbi.com, referring to Chalmers’ bucket. “When he hit the shot, I knew it was over. I knew we had it. The game had slowed down and then they had found some momentum but when he hit that it kind of slowed everything down,” added Punter, a former Tennessee standout who scored 26 points.
Of his latest crucial bucket, Chalmers said: “This means a lot to me, actually. Me coming back from the Achilles (injury with Memphis Grizzlies that kept him out of 2016-17 season), what I’ve been through battling injuries, having an organization taking a chance on me, actually bringing me out here … it’s a dream come true. It’s a blessing for me.”
Chalmers was asked if this performance might spark an NBA comeback. He’s a free agent this offseason. He could play in the NBA or return to Italy.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Chalmers said. “I’m going to enjoy this moment now with my team and organization and when that time comes I’ll think about it.”
Virtus Bologna had not won a major title in 10 years. The squad took the the FIBA EuroChallenge in 2009.
“We were completely ready for the final,” Virtus Bologna coach Sasa Djordjevic told eurohoops.net. “The team responded in a great way. We played in the right way. And that puts an exclamation mark (on the win).”
Chalmers, who hit 3 of 8 shots (0 for 3 from three) credited his coach for directing the victory.
“Coach told me to settle down and enjoy the moment and not try to make the moment. That was the biggest thing for me,” said Chalmers, who after a shaky first half, ultimately enjoyed a huge moment with that late two-pointer.
“Just being with Sasa is amazing as he’s a defensive-minded coach and it reminded me of how Pat Riley runs the Miami Heat. I’m used to playing for a coach like that,” Chalmers added.
In the consolation game, former KU center Cliff Alexander’s Brose Bamberg (Germany) squad lost to the Antwerp (Belgium) Telenet Giants, 72-58. Alexander had nine rebounds and no points (0 for 3 from field) in 19 minutes.
Chalmers will hold his 11th-annual golf tournament to benefit the Kansas United Youth League of Lawrence and the Chalmers Family Scholarship Fund on July 29 at Jayhawk Golf Club in Lawrence. Details are available at his foundation’s website. He will hold his annual bowling event on July 27 at Royal Crest Lanes, also in Lawrence. Details are available at his foundation website page.