It may have taken David Rivers just two games to earn legendary status at Olympiacos Piraeus, but the remarkable fortitude that put him in a position to triumph began much earlier. As the third-youngest of 15 children, Rivers worked his way to a university scholarship, only to be faced there with the challenge of overcoming life-threatening injuries from an auto accident. A decade later, Rivers etched his name into Olympiacos and Euroleague history books for his heroics as the Reds won their first Euroleague title in 1997.
Rivers was already a natural leader and excellent playmaker when he first joined Olympiacos in 1995. He led the Reds to the Greek League title that season, but what he did the following year is why fans in Piraeus will remember David Rivers forever. Playing under head coach Dusan Ivkovic, Rivers used his speed, scoring skills and leadership to guide Olympiacos to Rome for the club's third Final Four. Rivers had an excellent season with 17.2 points per game, but saved his best for last. He scored a season-high 28 points in a 74-65 semifinals win over Union Olimpija Ljubljana, and then 26 more to dominate FC Barcelona 73-58 in the championship game. His two-game total of 54 points is the second most on a winning team in Final Four history. It came as no surprise when Rivers was named Final Four MVP.
In addition to his success with Olympiacos, Rivers also played in France, Italy and Turkey before returning to the Reds in 2000 for a second stint – and retirement – at the age of 36. Rivers maintained a warm relationship with the club, which he rooted on in person at the 2009 Final Four in Berlin. Today, Rivers remains active in basketball as a college coach in his native United States.
MOMENTS IN TIME
1978: FIRST EUROLEAGUE SEASON
Olympiacos made it to the Euroleague group stage for the first time in the 1978-79 season. Its highlight was a 79-77 home win against Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. Steve Giatzoglou was its best player back in those days.
1994: IN THE FINAL FOUR
The Reds, led by Zarko Paspalj and Roy Tarpley, reached their first Final Four in 1994 and went all the way to the championship game before suffering a narrow 59-57 loss against Joventut Badalona.
1997: GLORY IN ROME
After coming close several times before, it all clicked for Olympiacos in 1997. Head coach Dusan Ivkovic and star guard David Rivers pushed Olympiacos to its first Euroleague title in dominant fashion, downing FC Barcelona 73-58 in the championship game.
2012: THE COMEBACK
In one of the most unbelievable comebacks in basketball history, Olympiacos rallied from a 19-point deficit in the final 13 minutes to beat CSKA 62-61 on a game-winning shot by Georgios Printezis.
2013: BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
Olympiacos had a near-perfect Final Four in London, downing CSKA 52-69 in the semifinals and defeating Real Madrid 100-88 in the championship game. Vassilis Spanoulis was chosen as the Final Four MVP for the third time.