BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
| Nikos Galis at the 1988 Euroleague Final Four in Ghent, Belgium|
A small constellation of European stars of the 1980s' and 1990's assembles in Thessaloniki on Tuesday night to pay tribute to Greek legend Nikos Galis.
Ukraine's Alexander Volkov; Croatia's Dino Radja and Stojan Vrankovic; Spain's Jordi Villacampa; Israel's Doron Jamchy; France's Richard Dacoury; Slovenia's Slobodan Subotic; Serbian/Greek Branislav Prelevic; and multi-winning Serbian coach Zeljiko Obradovic are among Galis's former opponents or team-mates that will attend a ceremony in honour of the 55-year-old's contribution to Greek and European basketball.
The tribute is organised by Aris Thessaloniki, the club at which Galis spent the best years of his bright career and comes almost two decades after his retirement from action, which came about abruptly in October 1994, while he was playing for Panathinaikos.
The main act consists of a friendly game between Aris and historical French club Limoges, which is now coached by the former team-mate of Galis on the Thessaloniki side and the Greek national team, Panagiotis Giannakis.
The 1.84m tall Galis was neither a playmaker nor a shooting guard; he was simply an unstoppable scoring machine.
He holds the scoring record for most points in a single game at the World Championship (54 points against Panama in 1986) and is the all-time EuroBasket leading scorer.
In 1987, Galis averaged 37 points-per-game, including 40 in the final against the Soviet Union, to lead the Greeks to their first EuroBasket gold medal.
His formidable backcourt partnership with Giannakis paid dividends again two years later, when he averaged 36.5 points-per-contest to take Greece into the EuroBasket 1989 title game, where they fell to Yugoslavia.
"Galis was the best scorer, he is the man who changed basketball," said Obradovic who, during his playing days at Partizan Belgrade, had faced the Greek legend as an opponent.
"It was impossible for any player to stop him, believe me, everyone had tried and failed.
"I remember teams trying all kinds of things on him, double teams, big men, small men, but the truth is that when he wanted to score, he did.
"On top of everything, he also made it look so simple.
Galis's trademark move consisted of remaining suspended in mid-air until he drained his jump-shot, long after his opponents had landed on the floor.
"Galis would jump to shoot and you were were waiting for him to come back down at some point, but he never did," Obradovic recalls laughing.
"It was as if he walked in the air."
Italy legend Dino Meneghin, who will be unable to attend due to a personal engagement, had played against Galis in some classic encounters between Aris and Olimpia Milano back in the day and echoed the sentiment.
"Galis was unique, he could do whatever he set his mind to do on a basketball court," the former Italian Federation president told the Aris official website.
"It's a pity that I have always been his opponent and never his team-mate.
"I would be very honoured to have played on the same team with Galis."
Aris reached three consecutive European Champions' Cup (today's Euroleague) Final Four tournaments in the late 80's but never conquered the trophy, despite Galis averaging over 32 points during each one of those three campaigns.
Galis had one more shot at the title in 1994, during his stint with Panathinaikos, but the Athenians finished in third place as he led the competition in scoring with 23.8 points-per-game and passing, with 4.7 assists-per-game, at the age of 37.
He led the Euroleague in scoring during eight consecutive seasons, is the all-time leading scorer in the Greek League and the domestic Cup competition, and was inducted in the FIBA Ηall of Fame in 2007.