SPORTS

A long-overdue celebration for the legend of Greek basketball, Nikos Galis

It’s been 18 years since Nikos Galis (born Georgalis in 1957 in New Jersey, USA) hung up his basketball jersey and retired from the game. Galis was named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991 and one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors in 2008.

He spent most of his career playing with Thessaloniki team Aris, taking it to two Euroleague Final Fours, but did a brief stint with Panathinaikos toward the end of his career, leading the Athens club to the Final Four in 1994. He also brought the gold medal to the Greek national team at the 1987 EuroBasket in Athens.

Yet Aris never bestowed him with the honors he deserved, causing a good deal of chagrin on the part of the club’s supporters.

However, on May 7, Galis will get his day of glory as Aris is organizing a special event in honor of the Greek-American basketball legend, an event that organizers say will reflect the contribution that Galis, now aged 55, has made to Greek basketball, Greek sport and to society in general throughout his career.

The event will be held at the Palais des Sports (officially known as the Alexandreio Melathron) in Thessaloniki and the organizers promise it will not just be a friendly game between two teams but a star-studded spectacle bringing together some of the greatest former stars of international basketball, whether they played alongside Galis or against him.

“The Dragon” of Greek basketball, retired player Panagiotis Giannakis, has agreed to appear. The team he currently coaches, Limoges, will play Aris. The Thessaloniki club has already announced the names of 11 of the event’s other eminent guests: Serbian coach Zeljco Obradovic, who played against Galis in a game between Aris and Partizan in the Euroleague Final Four in 1998; Alexander Volkov from Ukraine, who played against Galis on a national team level and beside him in Panathinaikos; retired NBA and Nikas Peristeri player Audie Norris, who named his son Nikos in honor of Galis; Croat star Dino Radja, who faced off against Galis in numerous memorable games between Aris and Jugoplastika in the 1980s; Stojan “Stojko” Vrankovic, who currently lives in Miami but who played with Galis both at Aris and Panathinaikos, forming a deep friendship, and faced off against him on a national level; the epitome of Italian basketball, Dino Meneghin, who will remind fans of the legendary clashes between Aris and the formidable Olimpia Milano; the French triad and Limoges veterans Richard Dacoury, Stephane Ostrowski and Frederic Forte; Maccabi Tel Aviv strongman Doron Jamchi; and Badalona ex-player and current chairman Jordi Villacampa.

Of course, Giannakis belongs in a category of his own in the event. Gali’s alter ego during Aris’s glory days, he will be appearing at the Palais des Sports in the dual role of ex-player and current coach. The third star of the Thessaloniki team in the 1980s, Lefteris (Slobodan) Subotic, is currently in Lebanon coaching Al Riyadi and it is not certain whether he will be able to make it to Thessaloniki due to the match calendar.

In total it is expected that there will be more than 30 of Galis’s former teammates and foes, as well as Branislav Prelevic and Nikos Stavropoulos, to remind fans of some of the greatest clashes between Aris and PAOK.

The president of Aris, Lefteris Arvanitis, is overjoyed that one of the team’s most legendary players will finally get his day in the limelight.

“The event will last for three days. This is something that has never been done in Greece before and it will be a celebration of the same caliber as Nikos Galis,” he told Kathimerini. “We are in the final stretch and we feel that people will really enjoy the event, and Galis’s jersey will finally be hung from the ceiling of the Palais, where he had some of his greatest moments.”

The celebrations will bring to fruition a dream for Galis fans, who cross the spectrum of team preferences.

“We want to see Nick in his yellow jersey with the number 6 on its back, even if it’s just for a minute,” one fan told Kathimerini.

Galis has said that he will be there, but he won’t play, probably because he prefers to be remembered how he once was, in his heyday.