Legendary Greek basketball player Nikos Galis was presented with an honorary doctorate in sports by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
He was honored both for his contributions to sports and culture and for his invaluable contributions to society in general. Galis is credited with raising interest in the game in the Greek public and inspiring younger people to pick up the sport.
“As you know, I have been honored very many times,” he said. “Because however I grew up and studied in the United States, I never had the opportunity to go to a Greek school. […]
That’s why this is a special honor for me, and one I will not forget. You know what I’m like, I don’t like to talk about myself. I would like to believe I provided a good example for young children and people in general, in terms of how a professional should be like, and how to do his job right. I want children to remember me as a hard worker that did his job on the court well.”
He said that the advice he gives youngsters who meet him in the streets of Thessaloniki is to educate themselves.
“I tell them that it’s really cool to chase your dream. Follow your heart as they say in America. But you should know that this requires a lot of sacrifice. It takes a lot of hard work. It also requires talent to be able to become a professional athlete. But education and morals will stay with you forever. So, guys, look to study first,” he noted.
Galis spoke of his love of Thessaloniki, saying, “It is my city, and I will not leave it, I’m going nowhere!”
University rector Nikos Papaioannou spoke of his modesty and of what a model he provided to young people, while alternate rector Andreas Giannakoudakis said that “he changed the future of basketball in Greece.”
Nikos Galis regarded as Europe’s greatest scorer
66-year-old Galis, nicknamed, “Nick The Greek” during his playing days, was widely regarded as Europe’s greatest scorer to ever play the game, and as one of the all-time greatest players in FIBA international basketball history.
He is Nick Galis to some and Nikos Galis to millions of others. He’s either an American who became a basketball sensation in Europe or a Greek superstar who happened to be from America.
He is the celebrated Greek hero who, almost single-handedly, changed the course of Greek basketball, turning it into a national sport.
In 1991, Galis was named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players. In 2007, he became an inaugural member of the FIBA Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was chosen as one of the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors. In 2017, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
He was born in Union City, New Jersey. The child of a poor immigrant family, from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Nisyros, he spent most of his club-playing career with Aris Thessaloniki, before having a late-career stint with Panathinaikos.
Galis led the Greece men’s national basketball team to the EuroBasket’s gold medal in 1987, and he earned the tournament’s MVP award in the process. He also led Greece to a silver medal at the 1989 EuroBasket.
Basketball fans are still wondering how he managed to stay in the air for so long to score against the Soviet Union in the final of EuroBasket 1987: