Nick Galis: A night to remember

Two decades after his retirement, the best ever Greek basketball player and one of the best to grace the European game, Nick Galis, enjoyed on Tuesday a special night in his honor organized by Aris, the club he made famous around the continent from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

The wonderful event in Thessaloniki included the announcement by Deputy Culture Minister Yiannis Ioannidis that the main hall of the Alexandrio Sports Palace of Thessaloniki is named “Nick Galis Hall”, while the number 6 yellow-and-black vest – in the colors of Aris – will grace its roof for ever.

Thousands of mostly Aris fans filled the stands and created an unforgettable atmosphere for the testimonial to Galis that also included a friendly game between the current Aris team and that of Limoges from France, coached nowadays by Galis’s partner in Aris and the national team, Panayiotis Giannakis.

A host of former players from the golden era of Aris and of the national team that in 1987 won Greece’s first European Basketball Championship in Piraeus participated in the event and spoke of the grandeur of the player who made basketball known to the majority of Greeks and paved the way for Greece’s continued dominance in the European game.

Besides Giannakis and former coach Ioannidis, the fans at the Nick Galis Hall witnessed the parade of such former stars as Nikos Filippou, Michalis Romanidis, Stojan Vrankovic, Dino Radja, Michalis Misunov, Doron Jamchi, Panayiotis Fasoulas, Bane Preljevic, Manthos Katsoulis, Zeljko Obradovic, David Stergakos and several more.

Then a visibly moved Nick Galis, who is now 55 years old, walked onto the court and greeted the fans who endlessly chanted his name and their song “you are god, unique” from the 1980s.

“The only times I have felt like this was at the birth of my daughter and today; I want to thank everyone for this,” said Galis in his Greek American accent, as tears rolled down his cheeks.

It may have taken Aris as well as the Greek state far too long to honor the man who changed the face of basketball in this country, but this also served to show the admiration and gratitude former colleagues and Greek fans still have for the Seton Hall University graduate after all these years.