In Europe, basketball is about passion, friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. There is a great tradition in this sport, with powerhouses such as Spain, Greece, Serbia, Turkey, France, Germany, or Lithuania.
The fans love basketball very much, and they respect legendary players. This is why it is so hard to say goodbye to athletes that made history during their playing career. In the past ten days, four great players decided to retire: Felipe Reyes, Vassilis Spanoulis, Nikos Zisis, and Fernando San Emeterio.
Reyes started his career almost 25 years ago when he signed with Estudiantes. In 2004, he moved to Real Madrid and became a legend and the captain of the team. With the Spanish club, he won two Euroleague titles, seven Spanish League titles, and six Spanish Cups. Reyes also has three Olympic medals, one World Cup title, and six European medals.
Some of Reyes’ greatest battles were against Spanoulis, who became an icon at Olympiacos. The Greek player spent some time at Panathinaikos and won the Euroleague in 2009 but, then, he stayed 11 seasons at Olympiacos. Spanoulis won two more Euroleague titles, and he was named three times the MVP of the Final Four. His achievements are too many to mention here, but Kill Bill is considered one of the greatest European players ever.
At the national team, Spanoulis was teammates with Zisis, who also had a stellar career. The player born in Thessaloniki played for nine teams: AEK Athens, Benetton Treviso, CSKA Moscow, Montepaschi Siena, Bilbao Basket, UNICS Kazan, Fenerbahce, Brose Bamberg, and Joventut Badalona. Besides winning the Euroleague in 2008, Zisis has four Italian titles, one VTB title, two German titles, and two Greek titles. He also has three medals with the national team: one at the World Cup and two at the European Championship.
The last player on my list is San Emeterio, who spent 20 years in Spain, playing for Valladolid, Girona, Baskonia, and Valencia. He won the domestic title twice, and he also won the EuroCup in 2018. More than that, San Emeterio was an important piece of the Spanish national team and has six medals in international competitions.
Of course, European basketball doesn’t lack talent and continues to produce great players, but it is always sad to see legends retiring. Thank you for the memories, Felipe Reyes, Vassilis Spanoulis, Nikos Zisis, and Fernando San Emeterio!
*photo: Ciamillo & Castoria