In the second part of our article about one of the biggest rivalries in European basketball, I’ll take a closer look at more recent games between both teams and speak about the post-2002 era.
In 2002, Panathinaikos started rebuilding its team around some younger Greek players like Nikos Hatzivrettas, Dimitrios Diamantidisor and Kostas Tsartsaris. This rebuilding got the team out of the top European level for two seasons, but Panathinaikos came back strong at the 2005 Moscow Final Four. Though the Greens lost in the semis, they did manage to top hometown CSKA in order to finish in third place.
At the same time, Olympiakos was playing some of its worst seasons and would even be ejected from the playoffs in the Greek league 2004/05 quarterfinals in a Panathinaikos sweep. This meant a renewal for the Reds, too, and the recruitment of Tyus Edney together with some younger locals like Vasilopoulos, Bouroussis and Schortsanitis provided new energy. They qualify for the Euroleague quarterfinals but are swept once again by Panathinaikos, this time in the Greek finals.
The 2006/07 season, which began with an incredible win in Piraeus’ Peace and Friendship Stadium, was one of the best for Panathinaikos. The recruiting of Ramunas Siskauskas helped them to build an even stronger team, and the backcourt firepower of Scoonie Penn and Henry Domercant was not enough for the Reds. But just watch this incredible final minute of that season opener:
The season continued like a dream for the Greens, who ultimately crowned it with their fourth continental championship by winning “their” Final Four at home in the OAKA. Here are some of the best plays from that incredible season.
Now the 2007/08 season saw the renewal of Olympiakos as a European playoff team and a very strong quarterfinal in Moscow in which it seems the big favorite CSKA could lose. Yannakis’ new coaching style and the return of Greek players made for some of the reason for the Reds’ restrengthening. A highly contested final series in the Greek championships still saw Panathinaikos win it, but the result of 3-2 for the Greens indicates how close it was this time.
You can’t talk about the rivalry between the teams without speaking about the rivalry, or even the war, that exists between the fans. Naturally, this rivalry has its roots in the soccer duels, but fans fight each other even in water polo and volleyball games. To say which team has the best fans is, of course, impossible, so let’s just enjoy their devotion to their respective teams.
Because of the huge rivalry, the visiting team’s fans are normally not allowed inside the host’s gym. But during the regular season, there are some exceptions to this rule that can have some crazy results and lots of empty seats in the arenas, as seen in this clip filmed by Olympiakos fans during the Panathinaikos Anthem at the OAKA.
To conclude this story, let’s just remember the huge collection of trophies of both teams. Panathinaikos has won 29 championships, 11 Greek Cups and is a four-time Euroleague champion; Olympiakos has collected 9 Greek championships, 7 Greek Cups and one Euroleague title.
I want to thank Pytheas from the French forum basketinforum for his excellent post on this rivalry, from which my articles were heavily inspired.