In an example of inspirational leadership that endured the entire season and finished on the season's very last play, Vassilis Spanoulis was voted MVP of the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four after willing Olympiacos Piraeus to the trophy on Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey in one of the most dramatic basketball finals ever played, anywhere.
Spanoulis came downcourt with 10 seconds left and dished to Georgios Printezis for the game-winning shot to end a miracle season for Olympiaocs. That play capped a rally from 19 points behind with 12 minutes to play that gave Olympiacos a 61-62 victory over CSKA Moscow that now becomes part of world basketball history.
The Reds began the season not even considered a sure Top 16 team, let alone a playoff contender or Final Four candidate. With four players under 22 in key roles and several others who weren't even in the Euroleague last season, it was an uphill climb that everyone in Olympiacos recognized. But the Reds had one thing going for them from the start: an unparalleled leader in Spanoulis,
He finished as the Euroleague's second leading scorer and led Olympiacos in assists as well. But more than anything it was his faith in his teammates, behind the scenes and on the floor, where he took more responsibility than any player in recent memory, that Spanoulis stood out most.
In what was a modest game by his standards in the final, Spanoulis scored 15 points on 2 for 4 two-point and 2 for 5 three-point shooting while hitting 5 of 8 free throws. After his teammates sparked a rally from 19 points behind with 12 minutes to play, Spanoulis returned to the floor in the last 6 minutes to lead one more time. It all culminated in him having the presence of mind to pass instead of shoot himself on the final play, with Printezis hitting the shot that shocked the basketball world.
This Final Four MVP trophy is the second for Spanoulis after he won it with Panathinaikos in 2009. He joins Dejan Bodiroga, who won with Panathinaikos in 2002 and Barcelona in 2003, as the player to win the Final Four MVP trophy - and also the trophy - with two different teams. Dimitris Diamantidis won it twice for Panathinaikos, in 2007 and 2011. And Toni Kukoc also won twice with Jugoplastika Split in the early 1990s, as well as third time as a Final Four loser with Benetton Treviso.