He is back with Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and feels like he never left. Stephane Lasme played some of the best basketball of his career with Panathinaikos, when he was chosen as the EuroLeague's Best Defender in 2013 and made the All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2014. Lasme went on to win the 7DAYS EuroCup title with Galatasaray Istanbul in 2016, earning the Finals MVP honor. One of the best-blockers in EuroLeague history, Lasme has played for Partizan Belgrade, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Panathinaikos. He is also a laid-back guy in love with his country, Gabon, and his favorite city, Port-Gentil. Lasme will tell us all about his team in this blog, so if you are a Panathinaikos fan – or just want to know more about a cool, funny EuroLeague star – this is your spot!
I am back in the EuroLeague and winning our first game feels really good. Honestly, the speed is a lot faster than in the EuroCup, but I felt comfortable. I was surprised to see so many fans showing up, I don't know why. It must be that I didn't play in a EuroLeague game in a while, but it was surprising. When you have such great fans behind you, everything is more comfortable. I felt at home! You always expect to play against talented, smart guys in the EuroLeague and you have to give your best on every play. In other leagues, you can relax for a couple of possessions, but not here. Every play is very important and you have to get used to not making mistakes. One mistake can cost you a lot in the EuroLeague. That was a big thing for me, and what I realized playing against Maccabi.
"One mistake can cost you a lot in the EuroLeague"
Speaking about Maccabi, it was pretty cool to see some people that I missed and hadn't seen in a while. Gur Shelef, for instance, is still working for the club. I got to see and talk to him before the game. It was cool! All the staff at Maccabi is pretty much the same from when I was there, so I got to see them and ask about everything, to catch up and see how their families are doing. They wanted to see my kids and I wanted to see theirs and how they've grown up – the regular stuff! It is great to catch up with people like them. You have to bring your phone to the gym if you want to show them pictures before the game. It is little things like this which makes basketball so special – the connections with so many people.
So, we will play two EuroLeague games this week. As a player, you always prefer to play than to practice. Still, we play two EuroLeague games and two Greek League games in eight days, so it is a tough week. Even with that, it is fun to play so many games, home and away, in such a short span. I am excited to go to Munich and face Bayern. It is great to go to Germany, they love basketball out there. I always love to play in Germany, and the following game is at home against Gran Canaria. It is going to be fun with our fans. I know it because we won our first EuroLeague game of the season and that means more people will be showing up in the next game. I can't wait!
Like I said, I am really looking forward to playing against Bayern. I played against most of their players last season when I was with UNICS Kazan. Last year, we lost against them in the EuroCup Quarterfinals and I have that game written down on paper. I am still mad about the fact that they beat us last year, so I am going to take it personal! If you beat me, then I am looking for you. I'm a very competitive player, and losing to them was really tough, but it is not over. Hopefully, we will get the win on the road. It would be big for us to get our first road win right away, because Panathinaikos always has goals to accomplish. Everybody is focused and we will try to get that win.
As always, I went to Gabon, my home country, last summer. It is home! In the city where I am from, Port-Gentil, we are barely 125,000 people, so it is kind of small. Everybody knows everybody and I am really comfortable there and I can find everything that I want. There is a beach, there is a forest with a lot of animals, there is nature... and you can just relax all day! There is no stress over there. When I go there in the summer, I get to practice with young kids, trying to be an inspiration and helping them get where I am today. I run basketball camps there every summer and go to see some basketball schools. It is always a lot of fun, but I am kind of extremely busy when I am over there. Still, I really enjoy my time at home a lot.
"You always expect to play against talented, smart guys in the EuroLeague."
Port-Gentil is really expensive. That is because a lot of oil companies are in the city, and the Gabonese economy is based on oil. Most of the biggest oil companies in the world have headquarters over there and because of that, everything is overcharged, you know? If you are a local, you don't realize it is that expensive until you get out. But still, it is nice weather, nice people, amazing food – I miss our food all year round! I can't wait until next summer, it is always good to be back.
It is great to be back in Panathinaikos – so far, so good! People are happy to see me back and actually, a lot of people greet me and say, "Welcome home." And they are right! Greece is like a third home to me, after the United States and Gabon. It is good to be back. It is comfortable and I know almost everybody in the organization. I know I left for a few years but at the same time, I feel like I never left. Everything is good. I don't have to adjust to the language because I know some Greek. I don't have to adjust to the driving. (Every country you go to as a basketball player, you have to adjust to how people drive.) In Greece, I already know the business and how they are. The food is amazing – I missed the food and the weather. My daughter thinks she is on vacation all the time, and if you think about Kazan in winter, you can understand why! We also have great jerseys this season! Adidas did a great job when they designed this jersey. I like it a lot and it is pretty comfortable.
Until next time! See you in OAKA, Panathinaikos fans!