He is a two-time EuroLeague champion and widely regarded as one of the best French players ever to appear in the competition, but not everybody remembers that Antoine Rigaudeau actually finished his club career with a brief stint in the EuroCup.
What came before
It did not take long for Rigaudeau to make an impact after he came through the youth ranks at his hometown club Cholet Basket as a teenager. Despite only being 18 years old, he was named the French Young Player of the Year and selected into the French League All-Star team in 1990. He followed that a year later by being named the Pro A league’s domestic MVP of the season. Success on a collective level eluded Rigaudeau though until he moved to Pau-Orthez, where he finally became French champion in 1996 at the end of his first season with the club.
After nearly a decade in France, Rigaudeau then took his career to the next level in 1997 by signing with Italian powerhouse Virtus Bologna. The task was to win a EuroLeague title for a club which had been perennial quarterfinalists over the previous few years. He succeeded in his mission on the first attempt, lifting the 1998 trophy at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. Rigaudeau led all scorers with 14 points in a low-scoring 58-44 title game triumph over AEK Athens. A second continental crown followed for Rigaudeau three years later, in 2001, as Virtus – coached by Ettore Messina – overcame TAU Ceramica 3-2 in a best-of-five series final. Rigaudeau formed an electric backcourt duo with Manu Ginobili, and again he showed his liking for the big occasion by top scoring in the final series with an average of 15.4 points per game.
A brief spell in the United States with the Dallas Mavericks followed before Rigaudeau returned to European basketball by joining Valencia. In the 2003-04 EuroLeague he inspired an impressive season for the Spanish club, which just missed out on a place in the Final Four after the French scoring star averaged a career-best 14.8 points per game.
The following season, 2004-05, Valencia was back in the EuroCup. Rigaudeau was sidelined for six months with an Achilles tendon injury, but he returned in time for the semifinals against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. He contributed 17 points as Valencia edged the first leg 77-75 at the Fonteta. But the Lithuanian team bounced back to take the second leg 75-65, advancing to the final on aggregate. And Rigaudeau’s EuroCup career came to an end after just two games.
What came after
Injuries and a long career had taken their toll on Rigaudeau, and after helping France achieve a bronze medal at the FIBA EuroBasket 2005, the French star retired as a player. He became an administrator, serving as sporting director for Paris-Levallois Basket between 2006 and 2008. He also had a brief spell coaching the same club in 2015, the same year in which his heroics on the court were recognised as he was elected – alongside Michael Jordan – into the FIBA Hall of Fame.