One of world basketball's most fascinating success stories remains in
place following Friday's announcement that Theodoros Papaloukas, CSKA
Moscow's star sixth man and reigning Euroleague MVP,
has extended his deal with the Russian champs through the 2009-10
season. Papaloukas already had two years remaining on his contract,
but has now committed himself to an additional year with the club. Among the best tall point
guards ever to play the game, Papaloukas (200, 30) has already spent
five seasons with CSKA, going from a virtual unknown outside his
native Greece to one of the most celebrated players on the planet.
Besides winning the 2006 Euroleague as Final Four MVP with CSKA,
Papaloukas is a reigning European national champion and a World
Championships silver medalist with Greece. At CSKA, Papaloukas has
revolutionized the role of sixth man. His huge impact on CSKA's
success has come despite starting just 4 out of his 114 games with
the club. He has never averaged 10 points in his Euroleague career,
but his influence as a floor leader and timely offensive performer
has been inspiring. He posted both the most points and most assists
in the last two Final Fours, posting a career-high 23 points in the
2007 title game.
Papaloukas was already 25 when he arrived in Moscow. He had begun his career with Ethnikos Ellinorosson, a club in his native Athens, and then played for Ampelokipoi, Dafni and Panionios. In the 2000-01 season with Dafni, the only of his career in which he averaged double digits in scoring, Papaloukas posted 14.5 points per game and led the Greek League in assists. He joined Olympiacos the following season, his first in the Euroleague, helping the team to win the Greek Cup and to reach the Greek League finals. CSKA signed Papaloukas in the summer of 2002, and soon after, one of the most historic club's in European basketball was on the rise again. Papaloukas has helped CSKA reach the Final Four each and every season since – five in a row, which stand as records for both clubs and players. He and CSKA have also won five consecutive Russian League titles and lifted three Russian Cup titles.
His biggest success, however, came in 2006, when Papaloukas led CSKA to its first Euroleague title in 35 years. Papaloukas was voted the Final Four MVP and also made it to the All-Euroleague first team for the first time. Last season, Papaloukas led the Euroleague in assists with 5.4 per game. He also scored 9.8 points on 66.4% two-point shooting and pulled 3.2 rebounds on average over 25 games. But his incredible performance in the Euroleague title game – 23 points on 9-of-10 two-pointers and 8 assists – was not enough for CSKA to beat Panathinaikos and win back-to-back Euroleague titles.
“The extension of the contact is a
[great] deal not only for CSKA, but for European basketball in
general,” CSKA senior vice president Andrei
Vatutin said in a statement. “The best player on the
continent stays in Europe and does not leave for the NBA as did the
previous Euroleague MVP. This is just another confirmation of the
Euroleague's level of progress. For us, the extension of the contract
was one of the main task for the off-season and we are happy.”
Papaloukas is currently the Euroleague's all-time leader in assists (523) and steals (211). He helped the Greek national team win the gold medal at EuroBasket 2005, where he earned all-tournament honors. A year later, he led Greece to the 2006 World Championships final, and despite losing to Spain, was voted to the all-tournament team.