By Kevin Anselmo and David Hein
Even though Greece captured their second EuroBasket title with a 78-62 victory over Germany, the silver medallists also consider themselves among the winners Sunday night.
For Greece, it´s their second miracle run in 18 years.
In 1987, with current head coach Panayotis Yannakis orchestrating the offense as the point guard, Greece defied all odds and won the competition setting off a basketball revolution in the country. Basketball rocketed to the number one sport and the EuroBasket medal was considered a turning point for Greek basketball.
Now as a coach, Yannakis has guided his players to a similar feat.
“It was great because these kids learned basketball from the generation of 1987,” said Yannakis. “My generation is like a father for these kids."
And now players such as Theodoros Papaloukas have fulfilled the dreams of their childhood heroes.
"It's a very big moment for my team, my coaches and me,” said Papaloukas. “In 1987 I was 10 years old. I couldn't sleep that night because I was so excited, and now I know there's other young kids that feel the same.”
For Papaloukas and thousands of new Greek basketball fans, these dreams came true this evening in Belgrade.
"I have a lot of respect for the past, but I love the future,” said Yannakis. “This is a great example that if you believe, play with heart, learn your opponent and practice hard you can do anything."
Germany's second place finish gives them just their second medal overall in EuroBasket history - going along with their 1993 championship title.
"Hey, we got silver. That's unbelievable," German forward Sven Schultze said. "That's worth coming here. We can party all night now."
"We made the final and that's an amazing feat," said Dirk Nowitzki, who took home Most Valuable Player honours and the award for top scorer of the tournament. "The Greeks showed from the beginning that they were the better team."
German coach Dirk Bauermann called the silver medal a "great sensation".
"They had more energy. We played at the highest level thorughout the tournament, and it was tough to call it up again today," the coach said.
"One man can't beat five guys. I'm proud of our team. Not just Dirk, but everybody."
Pascal Roller added: "I'm happy we waited until today to play our worst game."
While Patrick Femerling said Greece were just the better team, adding: "We could have played another 10-15 minutes and the lead still would have been around 10-14 points."