For a generation of fans across Europe, he has been one of the symbols of the modern rise of Greek basketball. Now 35 years old, Giorgos Sigalas returns to the Euroleague with a full appreciation of history. Sigalas won a continental title in 1977 with his original team, Olympiacos, and now leads one of the great Greek clubs, Aris, into Europe's top competition for the first time in 15 years. The importance of the moment is not lost on Sigalas. "My basketball career is about to be over and I feel very proud being a member of Aris, the king of Greek basketball, as it tries to rebuild its reputation," Sigalas told Euroleague.net. "We have fought a lot under difficult circumstamces to be among the 24 teams of the Euroleague, and we are really determined to succeed."
Giorgos, for someone who spent almost your whole career in Europe's top competition, how does it feel to be returning after a few seasons away from the Euroleague?
"To be honest, it's really exciting. After many years, I can participate again in the most competitive league of Europe and this is really important for my career. Playing is such high level is a huge challenge for everyone. It proves your potential."
As a veteran, how do you feel about the changes that have carried European basketball to a growing worldwide audience?
"Basketball is like life! Nothing remains the same, but changes every day. Today, basketball is not just a common indoor activity but it represents a whole era of people playing and working for it. European basketball is now a whole world."
You are, of course, a former Euroleague champ, with Olympiacos in 1997. How much of a difference is there between basketball then and now?
"Generally speaking, the game was faster 10 years ago. Today there are more athletic, strong and well-practiced players who can play in Euroleague, despite their lack of speed. Howevere, I strongly believe that Olympiacos played the ideal game, transcending the basketball standards of that period. Even today, many teams are trying to play like Olympiacos did in Rome."
Not only do you return personally to the Euroleague, but you lead one of Europe's historic clubs back onto the continent's biggest stage. What kind of honor will it be for you as captain to lead Aris into its first Euroleague home game at Alexandrio next week?
"It's a big honour for me to be the captain of Aris in its comeback to the Euroleague after 15 years. My basketball career is about to be over and I feel very proud being a member of Aris, the king of Greek basketball, as it tries to rebuild its reputation. We have fought a lot under difficult circumstamces to be among the 24 teams of the Euroleague, and we are really determined to succeed in the league."
Let's not forget the Final Four in Athens next spring. During this golden age in European basketball, after the success of the 2004 Olympic Games, what can fans expect when that world-class event hits town next May?
"The Greek national team is the European Champion from Belgrade and the finalist of the World Championships in Japan. I can't imagine any more suitable year to host the Euroleague Final Four than this one. Both the players and the fans are waiting for the Final Four games in the birthplace of the most tradiotional teams in Europe."