The Greek Euroleague’s powerhouses then and now


Between 1999-2000 and 2012-2013, the Greek teams, Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus won 7 out of 14 Euroleague trophies. They had huge success in the most powerful European basketball competition in that period, but now, where are they? They still have a chance to compete for a title or the other teams are too powerful for them?

When Zeljko Obradovic signed with Panathinaikos in 1999, nobody expected to see such a strong team that will dominate between 1999 and 2011. In that period, The Greens won 5 Euroleague titles and many titles in Greece’s competitions. Obradovic was able to bring very good players every season and managed to build chemistry around key players like Dejan Bodiroga, Dimitris Diamantidis, Mike Baptiste, Jaka Lakovic and later Vassilis Spanoulis or Sarunas Jasikevicius. But, after the economic crisis hit the team, Obradovic left and at the beginning of 2012 season, Panathinaikos added 12 new players, including James Gist, Roko Ukic or Jason Kapono and a new era started in Athens. But from that year, they never reached another Euroleague Final Four, despite many transfers and money invested.

Olympiacos had some tough years prior to 2008-2009, a season that marked their return to the Euroleague Final Four after 10 years. From that point, the team build a winning mentality and were one of the main favourites to win the competitions in the next years. Everything culminated with season 2011-2012 when they managed to win the Euroleague, despite their team budget being reduced with 50%. The great Dusan Ivkovic build a new and young team around star Vassilis Spanoulis and with the help from players like Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou, Kyle Hines, Joey Dorsey or Acie Law, they completed one of the most dramatic comebacks in the Final against CSKA Moscow and won the game 62-61. In the next year, they repeated the scenario, winning another trophy against Real Madrid in The O2 Arena in London, score 100-88.

But what’s next for these two Greek powers? Nowadays they have some problems in matching other teams budgets. Olympiacos has even bigger problems because they were relegated to the second Greek basketball division and due to their lack of competitive matches, they look insecure and sometimes unprepared when faces teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Anadolu Efes. The financial crisis that hit Greece at the beginning of 2010 does still have some repercussions on those two teams. They made a lot of transfers and brought in new players every year, but that affect the chemistry, while the other teams had a powerful core that continues to build on. And I don’t say it’s impossible, but is very hard to compete against teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Anadolu Efes, CSKA Moscow or Armani Milano, teams with great budgets, stability and very good chemistry between their players.

Image: Euroleague

Bogdan Vasile Tirc