Devotion
by: Frank Lawlor, Euroleague.net
May 23, 2012
Vassilis Spanoulis - Olympiacos Piraeus
Six months ago, fans outside of Greece would have recognized few of the Olympiacos players who were not named Vassilis Spanoulis. Now that they are all Turkish Airlines Euroleague champions together, it might be said that no team in recent memory had such a clear and present leader as Olympiacos did this season in Spanoulis, who was named Final Four MVP. It's not just that he played 30% more than any of the other Reds, took almost twice as many shots and dished three times as many assists. By having the ball in his hands almost constantly, Spanoulis took all the responsibility and risks that allowed a young team to grow without pressure. While so many new and young faces were working hard in practice to come together and improve, Spanoulis had their backs in the games, putting the pressure on himself so they could learn. It was not easy, either. Olympiacos barely scraped through to the Top 16, but once there, the leadership that Spanoulis invested started to pay off handsomely. In the final, those players whose names few people knew months before led the comeback. And then they got the ball to Spanoulis for the last, decisive moments of what ended as a miracle season for Olympiacos. "I cannot say we were the best team from the start of the season," Spanoulis told Euroleague.net "But for sure we were the team that improved the most, maybe more than any team in the history of the Euroleague, if you look from the beginning to the end of the season." more
by: Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
May 5, 2012
Ibrahim Kutluay - Panathinaikos - Final Four Bologna 2002
It’s been 10 years since Panathinaikos won the Euroleague by rallying to upset Kinder 83-89 in Bologna, Italy, the only title won on the home floor of the other finalist and one of the greatest comebacks in finals history. Shooting star Ibrahim Kutluay was the leading scorer for Panathinaikos that night, with 22 points, scoring his last 7 in the final 45 seconds to put the victory on ice. That alone would have been enough to put him in the pantheon of Final Four greats, but Kutluay's legacy is much bigger. The year before winning the title, Kutluay became the first Turk in any sport to join a Greek team. As a human bridge between countries that had experienced political strife, Kutluay's move to Greece required unprecedented levels of class and professionalism on and off the court. He had both in abundance. Indeed, after one season with AEK of Athens, he transferred with the city to Panathinaikos, the most successful modern team in Europe. And on May 5, 2002, Kutluay's remarkable humanistic achievement was crowned with a sporting one as he became the only Turkish champion of the Euroleague ever. "I lived in Greece for five years, felt really well and met a lot of great people there who I remain friends with," Kutluay told Euroleague.net. "I love the people there and the people love me back. There is great connection between us. I really think I helped to bring both countries closer." more
by: Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
May 4, 2012
Kostas Kaimakoglou - Panathinaikos
One year after he became a Euroleague champion but played just the last few seconds at the Final Four, forward Kostas Kaimakoglou returns to the event in a much different role. Kaimakoglou has proven critical in helping the Greens get back to the Final Four. His great performance in Game 4 of the playoffs – 12 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes – allowed Panathinaikos to stay alive and eventually clinch its first back-to-back Final Four appearance in a decade. Overall, Kaimakoglou has averaged 7.9 points on 43.5% three-point shooting and 4 rebounds in 21 Euroleague games off the Panathinaikos bench. In so doing, he has collected the second-most three-point shots and the third-most rebounds and steals for the Greens this season. Just like his entire team, Kaimakoglou is determined to win a second consecutive Euroleague title, something unprecedented in Panathinaikos's remarkable history. "It is a great motivation for all of us, team and coaches," Kaimakoglou told Euroleague.net . "We can do something different and special, and we have in front of us the chance to do it. Everybody with the team wants to win it for the second consecutive season. Our most experienced players and our coach have won many titles, but are still hungry for more." more
by: Javier Gancedo, Euroleague.net
May 2, 2012
Kostas Papanikolaou - Olympiacos
Small forward Kostas Papanikolaou is a central piece of the young core of players that has led Olympiacos Piraeus back to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four this season. In his third Euroleague season – and second as a starter – Papanikolaou has gradually seen a rise in his minutes played and production, but his importance to the Reds cannot always be measured by numbers. Papanikolaou’s versatility and team-game is what makes him such a dangerous weapon who can impact games with his defense, outside shooting, rebounding and basketball IQ. And it’s no coincidence that when he plays well, Olympiacos wins – the team is 6-0 this season when he has a performance index rating in double figures. In this Euroleague.net interview, Papanikolaou expresses his feelings on a wide range of topics, including what motivates the Reds ("From the beginning of the season, we have been hearing that this season this team wouldn't be able to do much in the Euroleague. I think the scouts underestimated us."), Coach Dusan Ivkovic ("I feel blessed to have this opportunity to play for him.") and what it would be like to win the Euroleague ("It would be crazy. A dream come true… A true accomplishment for us."). Moreover, he reveals Olympiacos’s key in the semifinal against FC Barcelona Regal. "We must keep playing the same strong defense that we played against Siena," Papanikolaou told Euroleague.net. "Through our defense, we created an open court to run and everything started working better for us. So I think the key is that our defense works well." more