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Greek Legend Spanoulis Retires from Professional Basketball

Spanoulis retires
Spanoulis announced his retirement on Saturday. Credit: Twitter/B.C. Zalgiris Kaunas

The Greek legend of European basketball Vassilis Spanoulis announced on Saturday his retirement from the sport after he was forced to pull out from the Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada later in June.

In an emotional Instagram post, Spanoulis, nicknamed Kill Bill, said that it is “time to close the biggest chapter of my life.”

“It was a difficult decision because basketball gave me a unique journey full of intense moments and great emotions. Basketball gave me everything and I gave it everything.

“I leave proud of what was greatly conquered but also of what was lost after a hard battle. Above all, I leave full, because I achieved more than I ever dreamed,” Spanoulis said and signed the emotional post as “The child who dreamt of playing basketball.”

Earlier in June, Spanoulis announced his return to the Greek National Team after six years, raising hopes that Greek basketball would qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite the fact that he is now 39-years-old, Greeks hoped that his skill and experience could have made a huge difference in the qualifying tournament for the Olympics, where Greece needs to overcome Canada and China, in order to qualify for the Olympics. If it goes through, it will clash with France, Iran and the U.S.A in Tokyo.

“I never thought or imagined that I would be here again six years later. I have rested and I am strong. Mr Pitino [Greece’s head coach] has shown he has confidence and respect for me and I thank him very much. I am ready together with the other players to help the effort of the National team and to achieve the highest honor for an athlete, which is participating in the Olympic Games,” Spanoulis said earlier in June.

Spanoulis did not participate at the “Acropolis Tournament” in Athens last weekend as a precaution due to calf stiffness, which eventually evolved into a strain.

Spanoulis “will remain a true legend”

This led him to the decision to quit professional basketball, which was received with sadness around Greece and Europe. The EuroLeague Players Association tweeted: “What a career! You inspired many young players and will remain a true legend of our game. The game will miss you.”

Barcelona, huge rivals of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, the two Greek clubs Spanoulis graced with his presence, said: “Congratulations Vassilis Spanoulis on a legendary career! It has been a pleasure to be able to enjoy you as a rival at the Palau Blaugrana.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv said: “A Leader. A Winner. A Role model. A Rival. An Inspiration. A Legend. Good luck on your next step Vassilis Spanoulis.”

An illustrious career for ‘Kill Bill’

Vassilis Spanoulis been the leading scorer in every major tournament that he played in, from 2006 onward.

That was nine tournaments in total: 2006 FIBA World Cup, 2007 EuroBasket, 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, 2008 Summer Olympics, 2009 EuroBasket, 2010 FIBA World Cup, 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, 2013 EuroBasket, and the 2015 EuroBasket.

Spanoulis played an instrumental role on the senior men’s Greek national team’s 2005 EuroBasket gold medal team.

Most importantly, he was one of the main stars of Greece’s 2006 FIBA World Cup silver medal team, scoring 22 points in the memorable victory over Team USA (101–95), in the tournament’s semifinals.

It was however, Greece’s bronze medal at the 2009 EuroBasket, that emphasized Spanoulis’ leadership within an injury-plagued Greek national team, and consequently earned him an All-EuroBasket Team honor.

In 2017, European basketball historian Vladimir Stanković, named Spanoulis the “Most Clutch Player in EuroLeague History“.In 2020, Spanoulis was named the “Best EuroLeague Player of The 2010s Decade” by the readers of the website Eurohoops.net.

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