Greek basketball great and three-time EuroLeague champion Antonis Fotsis announced on Wednesday that he is retiring from professional basketball. Fotsis, 36, will continue playing with his boyhood club, Ilisiakos, in the Greek minor leagues. He parted ways with long-time club Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens last week and decided he would not wear another uniform at the top level. Fotsis spent 12 seasons of his 20-year professional career with the Greens and helped the team to EuroLeague crowns in 2000, 2009 and 2011 as well as 10 Greek League titles and six Greek Cups.
Fotsis leaves a mark on the EuroLeague that will be hard to match. He retires ranked seventh in career rebounds (1,124), 10th in games played (250), 12th in three-pointers made (304), 26th in scoring (1,917) and 29th in blocked shots (97). He set the competition's single-game rebounding record with 24 for Dynamo Moscow in a march 2007 game against Benetton Treviso. Fotsis also played two seasons for Real Madrid of Spain, which he helped to the 2005 Spanish championship; three with Russian side Dynamo, with which he won the 2006 ULEB Cup; two with Olimpia Milan of Italy; and one in the NBA with Memphis.
His success extended to the Greek national team, which he helped to some of its greatest moments, including winning the gold medal at EuroBasket 2005 and a silver medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship after a historic victory over Team USA in the semifinals. Fotsis also collected a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2009 and played at a total of six EuroBaskets, two world championships and two Olympic Games.
Fotsis released this statement about his decision:
"I started a 16-year-old boy in Panathinaikos and without realizing it I spent 20 years on the courts. I loved the green shirt, I never hid it, but I did not 'sell it', and I was fortunate to play in the NBA and in other big clubs in Europe. On a personal level, I became a father and this feeling cannot be compared to anything. I created my family, which was the stable companion for me in easy and difficult times. I want to thank the Giannakopoulos family, who also treated me as their child and offered me everything an athlete would want.
"After a lot of thought, I decided that it was time to write my end-of-career thoughts. I gave what I had to give and since it was not meant for me to retire as a Panathinaikos player, I would not want to continue playing professionally in another Greek or European club. But for me, basketball does not end here.
"I will continue to play at the amateur level and I decided to play this year at Ilysiakos, the team which was my first and is connected to my past and to my father. I leave behind the highest level, but I will continue to play my favorite sport for as long as my heart says."