During these summer weeks in which club team action is slowing down a bit despite a hot transfer market, BallinEurope will give you a little history lesson with the presentation of the biggest rivalries in European basketball. And we’ll start in Greece.
Basketball in general started to become a notable sport in 1987 after the victory of the Greek national team behind incredible performances from US-born Greek Nikos Galis in the Eurobasket tournament against the former Soviet Union. During this period, the Greek championship was dominated by Aris Salonici and its backcourt duo composed of Galis and Giannakis.
In 1992, the Greek league became a professional league and the two big teams from Athens, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, started to assume leading positions in the Greek league. And in 1994 and 1995, it was Olympiakos who reached the Euroleague final for the first time after beating Panathinaikos both years in the semis. However, Olympiakos lost both finals against Joventut Badalona and Real Madrid.
This was also the era of huge defensive battles in the Greek league. Probably one of the most memorable games of this type was the game five of the 1994-95 Finals, with Olympiakos beating Panathinaikos by the incredible score of 45-44.
In 1996, it was Panathinaikos’ turn to reach the Euroleague final and this became the first Greek to win it, in a memorable final in Paris. After having beaten Benetton Treviso in the quarterfinals, the Greens of Dominique Wilkins won against FC Barcelona on an illegal blocked shot by Stojan Vrankovic which was not called by the referees.
In 1997, it was the Reds’ turn to win it all. After having won against Panathinaikos in the quarterfinals, it was David Rivers who gave the title to Olympiakos in a great final against FC Barcelona. 1997 also saw the game between Olympiakos and the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan during the former McDonald’s Open.
In 1999, Olympiacos once again reached the Final Four, but it would be the last time for the Reds. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos won another European crown in 2000, for the first time with coach Zeljko Obradovic. In 2001, the Greens lost in the Final Four against Maccabi Tel Aviv but reconquered the supreme European title in 2002 after having lost to Olympiakos badly in the Top 16. Everything in the group phase was decided on the last day, when PAO beat AEK Athens after two overtimes while Olympiakos suffered an incredible loss to Olimpija Ljubljana in overtime.
In the second part of this story, I will talk about more recent games between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, as well as the rivalry between the teams’ fans.