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Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
May 30, 2011
by Frank Lawlor, Euroleague.net
In the annals of elite basketball, perhaps no player ever has enjoyed such a successful weekend as Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos Athens did earlier this month at the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. By the time he left Barcelona late Sunday night, he was carrying five personal trophies: those of Best Defender, All-Euroleague First Team, Turkish Airlines Euroleague MVP, Final Four MVP and his personal-sized replica of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague championship cup. It was the full-size version of that cup, however, that mattered most to Diamantidis. As the Panathinaikos captain, he was handed the weekend's biggest trophy first, but called on the team's longest-serving players, Kostas Tsarsaris and Mike Batiste, to help him lift it. The gesture explained a lot about how Diamantidis – who also set a Final Four record with 18 assists while joining Dejan Bodiroga and Toni Kukoc as the only two-time MVPs of the event – thinks about the game of basketball. "The biggest honor for me is that my team has conquered the Euroleague title six times, and on three occasions I was there to celebrate," Diamantidis told Euroleague.net. "I think that is the most important issue. When your career ends what matters is always the titles you have conquered with your team."
Dimitris, did you have enough room for all the trophies that you took home from Barcelona?
"Yes, I do have enough room…(laughing). There is room for every single one of them. There was no problem."
Has it crossed your mind that maybe no pro athlete ever has received so many trophies in 24 hours?
"I didn't even think about it. The only thing that was 'bothering' my mind was the Euroleague title. Before the game, how we would end up with the title, and after the game, that we did it. This was the thought running through my mind, before and after; the same thing, our goal. Yes, I did earn some personal distinctions and I am happy for them, but I cared about the title of the team. I wanted most of all to see Panathinaikos nail the Euroleague title – nothing else."
When you came into the Euroleague in 2004, did you ever envision having so much success?
"No, I couldn't think that way. I was thinking mostly that I had come to a totally different team than Iraklis, the team I used to play for. Panathinaikos had different goals and the only thing I was thinking about was how I could help the team. I knew that Panathinaikos was aiming high, always, and my personal goal was to find a way to help the team. I wasn't thinking about personal titles. It didn't even cross my mind, no."
You asked Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris to help you lift the biggest, most important trophy, the Euroleague title. Why?
"The answer is easy: Because they are the two players who have been playing the most years in Panathinaikos. They have more years on the team than me and I believe they were entitled to be there, they deserved to be there. They totally deserved it!"
Now, a couple of weeks later, what do you remember most about the title game against Maccabi?
"The truth? Everything! I cannot say one phase, one moment, one basket...I remember the whole game, every single minute."
With a minute left, Maccabi was within 5. After a timeout, you assisted Mike Batiste alone for 2 points and then stole and hit free throws to make it 64-73. How did you make the game's most decisive 10 seconds look so easy?
"There are moments during a game when everybody does whatever he can to help the team. I simply did what the game itself 'instructed' me to do. I do whatever I can to help the team and my teammates. It may be a pass like the one to Mike, because I saw he was free at that particular moment. It may be a steal, with a little help from my teammates, in this particular play from Mike and Nick Calathes, who first touched the ball and made it easier for me to steal it. There are moments during the game that you do whatever it takes to help your team. These kinds of reactions are not a product of thought. It's just an instant reaction to what's going on in the game."
You set a new Final Four record with 18 assists. That is one record you must like, right?
"I like to pass. It's one of the elements of my game that I like. That's for sure. But it's not the only thing I like to do. It depends on the game and where it can lead you. I like to pass but I also like to commit a steal, or to score. The game itself tells you what you have to do."
Although you don't like to talk about individual honors, you became the third player to be Final Four MVP twice, along with Toni Kukoc and Dejan Bodiroga. What does being mentioned with them mean to you?
"It's a great honor for me to be in this small 'club' with these two great players! But the biggest honor for me is that my team has conquered the Euroleague title six times, and on three occasions I was there to celebrate. I think that is the most important issue. When your career ends what matters is always the titles you have conquered with your team. And, ok, my career has not finished yet, but I have had the privilege to be part of a team that has won the Euroleague three times. I hope we can all keep healthy in order to win more titles."
When you were growing up, did you follow any particular players very closely to learn from them?
"When I was young I watched basketball because I liked it. I didn't follow any particular players. When you are so young you cannot understand some elements of the game, how the game is really played. You watch the game and you simply enjoy watching it. I believe that I picked up more elements of my game from my coaches and not from other players. When I first came to Panathinaikos, my coaches showed me that basketball can be played in a different way than the one I knew until then. They showed me that there are other things that can be done and showed me the way to do them. I saw a different kind of basketball, which I liked."
Looking to the future, despite six titles in 15 years, Panathinaikos has never repeated as Euroleague champion. Is that the new goal? Or perhaps even to catch Real Madrid with eight trophies?
"Panathinaikos always aims for the Final Four, and once you get there you always have your chances at getting the title. I believe that the goal of the team each and every year is to get the title in the Greek League, the Greek Cup and conquer the Euroleague Final Four. It's something very difficult, but still, the goals remain the same. It's difficult to achieve your goals every year, because you have to face a lot of very good teams. I believe that every athlete would love to get back-to-back titles. Do you know a team that would say no to this? But it's not so easy. Regarding the eight trophies of Real Madrid, t's easy to say it, difficult to do it. There is a distance from the quotes to the real action. It's a desire… but still… sometimes I cannot even believe that I have managed to celebrate three Euroleague titles already in my life. So, you never know."