Legendary Greek basketball player Nikos Galis was honored on Friday by the Greek Basketball Federation with a jersey retirement ceremony.
The ceremony occurred during a friendly game between Greece and Slovenia. As the lights dimmed and the iconic retired player made his appearance, an extraordinary atmosphere enveloped the arena. Fans illuminated the surroundings with their phone flashlights.
Galis was visibly moved, trying to hold back tears as the entire arena chanted his name. Just before his jersey with the number 4 was raised to the rafters, he went by both benches to greet players from both teams. Galis exchanged greetings with Luka Doncic, who hugged him, and then he moved along the whole Slovenian bench, acknowledging the players.
— Νίκος🇬🇷Σωτηρόπουλος (@NIKSOTIROPOYLOS) August 4, 2023
Basketball star Nikos Galis honored in an emotional ceremony
The NBA hall of famer watched a career highlights video alongside the audience. “I’m very excited, it’s a big moment,” Galis said, clearly impacted by the ceremony on an emotional level.
During the ceremony’s final act, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis and Greek Federation President Vangelis Liolios presented Galis with two frames containing a collage of his iconic moments.
Following this, the two team captains, Kostas Papanikolaou and Luka Doncic, took turns to pay their tribute to the honoree. Afterward, Galis joined both squads for a photo shoot to commemorate the occasion.
🇬🇷 Nikos Galis jersey retirement ahead of Slovenia – Greece match pic.twitter.com/rfGMQmlfll
— BasketNews (@BasketNews_com) August 4, 2023
Born to Greek parents in New Jersey in 1957, Galis became the symbol of hope for a country that had never come close to winning a medal in any significant basketball tournament prior to his emergence.
Selected as the 68th pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1979 Draft, Galis found himself overshadowed by the team’s focus on Larry Bird. The team’s General Manager, Red Auerbach, later expressed deep regret about this decision in an interview, acknowledging that not offering Galis a contract was the biggest mistake of his career.
Galis took on the leadership role and guided Greece through their first FIBA World Cup in 1986, where they finished in 10th place. However, it was at the 1987 EuroBasket, hosted at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, that Galis truly shined. He delivered a memorable performance, scoring 40 points in the final game against the Soviet Union, leading Greece to a historic gold medal victory.
In the following EuroBasket two years later, Galis and Greece came close to repeating their success. The gifted scorer put up 45 points against the USSR in the semifinals, leaving a lasting impact, even though they fell short against Yugoslavia in the final.
Galis’s legacy in Greek basketball remains unparalleled, and he will forever be remembered as the driving force behind Greece’s rise in the world of international basketball.