Facundo Campazzo of Real Madrid and Vangelis Mantzaris of Olympiacos Piraeus will battle in Sunday’s championship game for a chance to lift a Euroleague trophy. On Saturday morning both players accompanied that same piece of coveted silverware into the adidas booth at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Fanzone for the traditional adidas Trophy Tour, one of many events this morning that gave fans the opportunity to interact up close and personal with Turkish Airlines Euroleague stars. Together with Euroleague bwin MVP Nemanja Bjelica of Fenerbahce Ulker and former MVP Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow, the four players signed autographs and posed for photos next to the trophy with hundreds of fans who created a line that stretched half the length of the Fanzone at Plaza de Oriente, all of them eager to get close to their favorite Euroleague players.
“It is the best thing for a professional athlete to see the fans want to take a picture with you, to want a handshake, to want a signature”, Mantzaris said.
For him and Campazzo, however, it was the first chance to come close to the trophy they want to reunite with on the Barclaycard Center floor on Sunday night. “I am very happy to be here with the fans, and I like being close to the trophy”, Campazzo said. “But I am very focused on the championship game, and it would be great to lift this trophy with my teammates tomorrow.”
“Every time you touch it, it is like your first time. And no matter how many times you touch it, it is like your first time”, Mantzaris, a two-time champion, said as he stood next to the trophy and glanced at it. “It will be a very difficult game for us in the final, but we are very proud to be in the final, and will give our best to win the trophy.”
Saturday morning once again proved that the Fanzone in front of the Royale Palace is the best place for fans to congregate and meet Euroleague stars. For those who missed them in front of the trophy booth, fans had another chance to see Bjelica, Kirilenko, Campazzo and Manzaris when they visited the New Era stand to sign more autographs and even shoot some hoops. Meanwhile, just meters away, another four Euroleague star players drew crazy responses as they strolled through the various stands.
Madrid's Marcus Slaughter, Bryant Dunston of Olympiacos, Bogdan Bogdanovic from Fenerbahce and CSKA's Sasha Kaun went to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Experience Area where they signed dozens of basketballs and handed them to the thrilled fans. They also visited the EA7 Emporio Armani Court and EFES Entertainment Area before proceeding to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Main Court, where another long line of fans were anxious to meet and greet them.
“It was a great event here at the Fanzone. I am excited and happy and proud that my city is hosting such an event. Fans really came out and showed support”, Slaughter said. And Dunston added: “This was great. Basketball is more about bringing people together, and connecting with people and it is great they had us here with the fans today.”