Great Greeks - Μεγάλοι Έλληνες (33. Nikos Galis - Νίκος Γκάλης)
Saturday, January 16, 2010 3:25:42 AM
Nikolaos Georgalis (Greek: Νικόλαος Γεωργαλής), commonly known as either Nikos Galis (Greek: Νίκος Γκάλης), or Nick Galis (alternate spellings include: Nikos Gallis, Nick Gallis, Nicolaos Georgalis, Nicolaos Georgallis, Nikolaos Galis, Nikolaos Gallis) (born July 23, 1957 in Union City, New Jersey, USA), is a retired Greek professional basketball player. He is an inaugural member of the FIBA Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors, as one of the league's 35 greatest players, on February 3, 2008.
Galis played the shooting guard position and spent most of his career in Aris, before having a late stint with Panathinaikos. He is the Euroleague's all-time leader in both career points scored and points per game (counting both FIBA and ULEB games), leading the competition in scoring eight times. He reached the Euroleague Final Four on four occasions, three consecutive ones with Aris (1988-90), and another one with Panathinaikos (1994). He is also the Greek Championship's all-time leading scorer in both career points scored and points per game (counting all the formats in league history). In addition to that, he holds the FIBA World Championship scoring records for the highest career points per game average, as well as the most points ever scored at a World Championship tournament, which he set at the 1986 FIBA World Championship.
Galis led the Greek national team to a EuroBasket gold medal in 1987, as well as to a EuroBasket silver medal in 1989, earning the tournament MVP honor in 1987, and being elected to the All-EuroBasket Team both times. Following the stunning success of the EuroBasket title in 1987, he won the Mr. Europa Player of the Year and the Euroscar awards the same year. Galis is widely regarded as one of Europe's all-time greatest players in professional club basketball history, as well as one of the all-time greatest players in FIBA international basketball history. He is highly revered in Greece, where he is considered by many to be the greatest individual athlete that the country has ever had. His years at Aris lifted Greek basketball from relative obscurity, into common public entertainment, with Galis being the figure that eventually inspired thousands of Greeks to take up the sport of basketball.
The child of a poor immigrant family from Rhodes, Greece, Nick took up boxing in his early years, his father George Georgalis having been a very good boxer in his youth. He was persuaded to give up boxing by his mother Stella Georgalis, who was shaking with fright every afternoon that her son would return with a new facial injury. As a result, he started playing basketball and attended Union Hill High School in Union City, New Jersey.
After high school, Galis enrolled at Seton Hall University as a college basketball player. In his senior season, Galis, a shooting guard, saw his scoring average reach 27.5 points per game, which was third in the nation behind Idaho State's Lawrence Butler (30.1 ppg) and Indiana State's Larry Bird (28.6 ppg), including a 48 point outburst against the University of Santa Clara. Galis' coach at Seton Hall, Billy Raftery, would later state that Galis was the best player he ever coached. Finishing his collegiate career in 1979, Galis signed with agent Bill Manon, who also managed Diana Ross. Manon did not have Galis work out with any NBA team. Galis was eventually selected by the Boston Celtics in the 4th round of the 1979 NBA Draft, 68th overall.
Due to a severe injury that he suffered during the Celtics pre-season training camp, the franchise was no longer interested in offering him a contract because Gerald Henderson had taken his place and his injury would keep him out for the foreseeable future. It was then that Galis decided to pursue a professional career in Greece's A1 League. Galis would later be offered NBA contracts by the Celtics and the New Jersey Nets while he was playing in Greece, but he turned the offers down because at the time FIBA did not have professional status, something it did not gain until the year 1989, and therefore Galis would not have been allowed to play for the Greek national team if he was an NBA player. Since playing for Greece's national team meant so much to Galis, he stayed in Greece. Celtics legend Red Auerbach later said that the single biggest mistake he ever made in his career was not keeping Galis.
Galis made the move across the Atlantic and signed to play with Aris Thessaloniki of Thessaloniki, Greece in 1979. Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus had also shown some interest in signing the newcomer, but it was Aris' interest that was the most persuasive. His move to the country helped Greek basketball reach heights never before imagined. In 1983, while playing in a game in the Dimitria Tournament with the Greek national team against the North Carolina Tar Heels, Greece's shooting guard Galis, while being guarded by North Carolina's shooting guard Michael Jordan, scored 50 points during the game. He played in the 1986 FIBA World Championship, where he led all players in scoring average with 33.0 points per game. In that tournament, he had a 53 point outburst against the Panamanian national basketball team.
Galis next led the Greek national basketball team to the 1987 FIBA European Championship gold medal. Averaging 37.0 points per game during the tournament, he was named the MVP of the tournament after scoring 40 points in the final against the Soviet Union national basketball team and its legendary player Šarūnas Marčiulionis for a 103-101 victory.
Galis also led Greece to the second place at the 1989 FIBA European Championship, averaging 35.6 points per game. Galis is remembered for a stunning effort against the Soviet team led by Marčiulionis and its other star player, Arvydas Sabonis, in the semi-final game. He scored 45 out of his team's 81 total points in a dramatic, last-gasp 81-80 victory. The team settled for a second place finish against the ever-dominant Yugoslavian national basketball team.
Averaging more than 30 points per game every season, Galis was the indisputable leader of Aris Thessaloniki. Playing alongside other great players at Aris such as Panagiotis Giannakis and Slobodan Subotić, Galis won 8 Greek Championships (7 of them consecutively and 3 undefeated, in the years 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991), 6 Greek Cups (4 of them consecutively, in the years 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992), and led Aris to 3 consecutive appearances at the European Champions' Cup Final Four (1988-1990). In the one disappointment of an otherwise glittering career with Aris, all three European Champions' Cup appearances ended in defeat in the semi-finals, thus depriving him of the opportunity to shine on Europe's biggest club stage. The team's performances and general standard of play however won the heart of every basketball fan in Greece, as well as creating thousands more Aris supporters. Indeed, cinemas and theaters would often reduce their admission prices on Thursday evenings when Aris was playing and the entire country settled down to watch them on television.
After a disappointing season of his team in 1992, Galis was forced to leave Aris. The new president of Aris and the fact that the team was then in decay were the main causes for his departure. Galis, who adored Thessaloniki, insisted about remaining in the club and playing for the team, as he believed that he still could offer much.
Galis moved to Athens for Panathinaikos and was the captain and the player that led Panathinaikos to a rebirth after the disappointing previous season that found the club in 8th place.
Galis inspired the young players of Panathinaikos such as Fragiskos Alvertis and Nikos Ekonomou and gradually brought back hope to the fans, to the point that Glyfada Indoor Hall was always overcrowded. In his first season (1992-93) that Galis played in Athens, Panathinaikos took second place in the Greek Championship, and won the Greek Cup, the 7th Greek Cup for Galis.
The following year, Galis was the European Champions' Cup top scorer (23.8 points per game in 21 games) and passer (4.7 assists per game in 21 games). He led Panathinaikos to the Final Four where they placed 3rd, a success that Panathinaikos had never reached before. He had to be content with being the top scorer in the 3rd-place match against FC Barcelona. He made one of his greatest career games against Virtus Bologna at the quarter-finals.
In his third season in Panthinaikos, Galis teamed up with Panagiotis Giannakis and Žarko Paspalj to make a strong effort to win the Champions' Cup. Galis was the player who led Panathinaikos to the Top 16 group, as he prevented the elimination of Panathinaikos by Budivelnik Kiev. He was also the leader of the team in the win against Olympiacos in a Greek Cup game at Sporting Sports Arena. But his career ended controversially on October 18, 1994 (a few games after the start of the 1994-95 season), when Kostas Politis (coach of Panathinaikos at that time) chose not to include him in the starting line-up of a Greek Championship game against Ambelokipi. Galis left the court, never again to return to action.
Greek National Team
He averaged 33.0 points per game at the 1983 FIBA European Championship, 33.7 points per game at the 1986 FIBA World Championship, 37.0 points per game at the 1987 FIBA European Championship, 35.6 points per game at the 1989 FIBA European Championship, and 32.4 points per game at the 1991 FIBA European Championship. Galis was only a 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) tall combo guard. In every one of the games that Galis played in these tournaments, the entire defense of every opposing team was focused on stopping his scoring outbursts.
It has been noted that Galis was not only a legendary scorer, but was also a great play maker and passer. The vast majority of his points scored came inside the paint area due to his penetrating ability. Another enormous competitive advantage that Galis possessed was his incredible stamina, which was due to his exemplary physical condition. This led to his being given the nickname of "Iron Man". At the EuroBasket 1987, he was never once substituted out of any game after the second day of the competition.
Since his official retirement on September 29, 1995, and up until early 2006, he has been the owner of a summer basketball camp in Halkidiki, Greece. The basketball camp is listed at the Athens Stock Exchange. As a token of appreciation for his contribution to Greek sport, Galis was chosen to be the first torch bearer in the final round of the Olympic Flame for the Athens 2004 Olympics. Galis entered the stadium at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony and set off the procession of the flame to the altar.
Nikos Galis in 2007, after being inducted an inaugural member of the FIBA Hall of Fame
In September 2007, Nikos Galis was elected as a member of the first class of the FIBA Hall of Fame, which includes the best basketball players in the history of the game internationally. Galis was inducted as a player. Bill Russell of the famous Boston Celtics dynasty was another one of the 16 inaugural player inductees. Galis is also a member of the Greek Basketball Hall of Fame, inducted as a player. Galis is married to Eleni Panagiotou and he has one daughter, named Stella.
Awards and accomplishments
Galis won numerous titles and awards during his career and had many memorable single game performances. The following are some of them:
- Haggerty Award (New York Metro Area Player of the Year): 1979
- Member of the Seton Hall Athletic Hall of Fame: 1991
- Won 8 Greek Championships: 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
- Won 7 Greek Cups: 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993
(In total, he won 15 championships in his pro club career as a player.)
Personal awards and achievements:
- 11x Greek League Scoring Champion: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
- 8x Euroleague Scoring Champion: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994
- Mediterranean Player of the Year: 1987
- Euroscar European Player of the Year: 1987
- Mr. Europa European Player of the Year: 1987
- World's 10th Best Athlete (a vote that included all sports and all countries): 1987
- 5x Greek Cup Most Valuable Player: 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993
- 4x Greek League Most Valuable Player: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
- 4x Greek League Assist Leader: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
- Euroleague Assist Leader: 1994
- Greek Cup all-time scoring leader: 1,935 points (35.2 ppg)
- Greek League all-time scoring leader: 12,849 points (33.5 ppg)
- Euroleague final stage all-time scoring leader: over 1,000 points
- Euroleague: all-time scoring leader
- Member of the Greek Basketball Hall of Fame
- Member of the FIBA Hall of Fame: 2007
- Euroleague's 35 Greatest All-Time Players: 2008
- Along with Panagiotis Giannakis, he led Aris Thessaloniki to an 80 game winning streak in the 1980s.
- His personal scoring record in one game was 63 points, achieved in a Greek League game in 1981 (Aris Thessaloniki vs. Ionikos Nikaias). However, in the same game, Ionikos' superstar Panagiotis Giannakis, who would later go on to become Galis' teammate on Aris, scored 73 points.
- In 1981, he also had a 61 point game against Iraklis Thessaloniki.
- Also in 1981, he accomplished his career scoring high in a European continental competition, as he scored 57 points against Pallacanestro Venezia during the 1981 Korać Cup.
- His high scoring game in the Greek Cup was 57 points against Panellinios Athens in the 1987 cup final.
- Also in 1987, he scored his career high in points in the old FIBA Champions' Cup (now called the Euroleague), as he scored 50 points in a game against Tracer Milano.
- He also holds 4 of the top 15 all-time individual scoring games in the Euroleague's modern record era (since 1991-1992).
- He scored 55 or more points in a game 10 times in his professional club career while playing with Aris Thessaloniki and Panathinaikos Athens.
- In 1990, in a FIBA Champions' Cup (now called the Euroleague) game versus Korihait Uusikaoupounk, he dished out 23 FIBA assists, which is still the all-time single game assist record.
- In 1993, while playing with Panathinaikos Athens in a revenge game against his former team Aris Thessaloniki, he had a game for the ages. Galis shot 13/13 from the field and recorded 19 FIBA assists in the game.
Greek National Team
- In 168 FIBA games played with the Greek national basketball team, he averaged 30.5 points per game.
- Galis was the leading scorer in every major European and world international competition that he participated in from 1983 onwards, the 1983 FIBA European Championship, the 1986 FIBA World Championship, the 1987 FIBA European Championship, the 1989 FIBA European Championship, and the 1991 FIBA European Championship.
- At the 1986 FIBA World Championship, he scored 53 points in a game against the Panamanian national basketball team.
- In the 1987 FIBA European Championship final, he scored 40 points against the Soviet Union national basketball team.
- In the 1989 FIBA European Championship semifinal, he scored 45 points against the Soviet Union national basketball team.
- 1980 Balkan Games: Gold Medal
- 1986 Balkan Games: Gold Medal
- 3x Olympic Qualification Tournament Scoring Champion: 1984, 1988, 1992
- 3x Olympic Qualification Tournament All-Tournament Team: 1984, 1988, 1992
- 1986 FIBA World Championship Scoring Champion: 1986 (33.7 ppg)
- 1987 FIBA European Championship: Gold Medal
- 1987 FIBA European Championship: All-Tournament Team
- 1987 FIBA European Championship: Most Valuable Player
- 1989 FIBA European Championship: Silver Medal
- 1989 FIBA European Championship: All-Tournament Team
- 1991 FIBA European Championship: All-Tournament Team
- 4x FIBA European Championship Scoring Champion: 1983 (33.0 ppg), 1987 (37.0 ppg), 1989 (35.6 ppg), 1991 (32.4 ppg)
- Greek National Basketball Team 2nd all-time scoring leader: 5,130 points (30.5 ppg)