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Giannis Antetokounmpo Honors Greek Basketball Legend Vassilis Spanoulis

Antetokounmpo Spanoulis
Antetokounmpo: “Without Vassilis Spanoulis, there would be no Giannis.” Credit: Keith Allison,cc2/Wikipedia commons

NBA champion and current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo paid tribute to Greek legend Vasilis Spanoulis on Monday after he was honored after his retirement from professional basketball.

The Greek NBA player appeared on the video wall during a press conference at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, addressing his former teammate on the Greek national team, saying he would not exist without “Kill Bill” (Spanoulis‘ nickname).

Antetokounmpo praised the Olympiacos point guard, saying he was one of the greats in Greek basketball history. “Thank you for what you’ve done for basketball and me,” the NBA champion with the Milwaukee Bucks told Spanoulis.

“Only a few people had your mindset. That is why you were one of the greatest in Europe, Antetokounmpo said. “You weren’t the tallest, or the quickest, or the strongest, but you were a “killer,” and you worked hard. I’ve learned so much from you, and I keep going.”

Antetokounmpo then compared Spanoulis to Nick Galis, the Greek-American basketball legend from the 1970s and ’80s who, probably single-handedly, raised the domestic and international level of the sport, making it the most successful team sport in Greek history.

Antetokounmpo compares Spanoulis to legend Nick Galis

“Just as you were relayed the torch from Galis, I was relayed it from you,” said Antetokounmpo, quite moved. “We love you. Spend time with your family now. We learned a lot from Galis, we learned a lot from you too.

“Without Nick, there would be no Vassilis, and without Vassilis, there would be no Giannis,” said the NBA Finals MVP, paying homage to two of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game in Greece.

Spanoulis announced his retirement from the sport after he was forced to pull out from the Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada in June.

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

Despite the fact that he is now 39 years old, Greeks were hoping that his skill and experience would make a huge difference in the qualifying tournament for the Olympics. Alas, a calf stiffness kept him from playing, eventually leading to the end of his career on the national squad.

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, a huge rival of both 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 (Barcelona’s basketball court).”

Spanoulis’ controversial move from Panathinaikos to Olympiacos

Spanoulis started playing professional basketball at Marousi BC, before getting transferred to Panathinaikos. After a few years he left the club for a stint in the NBA with the Houston Rockets during the 2006–07 season. He returned to Panathinaikos and helped lead them to a EuroLeague title in 2009, being voted the EuroLeague Final Four MVP in the process.

Spanoulis’ transfer to Olympiacos from Panathinaikos in the summer of 2010 marked a new step in his career. Within a young and rebuilding Olympiacos team, Spanoulis not only led the club to a EuroLeague title run in 2012, but he also went on to lead the team to a historic EuroLeague championship repeat in 2013.

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