By Nikos Varlas/ Varlas@eurohoops.net
He was born – to score – in the 11th of July in 1990 and he is still on the start of a promising career. However, Nikos Pappas is a familiar name in European basketball, being the top scorer of the junior national teams of 1990 and 1991 generation. It was a golden Greek generation winning 6 medals between 2007 and 2010, 3 golds and 3 silvers. It’s the same generation that gave Euroleague’s champion Olympiacos three distinguished members (Papanikolaou, Sloukas, Mantzaris) and in the Istanbul final, when the buzzers sounded, the result was the usual.
Win, gold, title, trophy! “I have told you before, this generation never lost a final and you don’t want to understand it”, was the first quote of Vaggelis Mantzaris after the final against CSKA. Our hero wasn’t there, but his name has been a subject of talks since the first day he appeared in a court. He was always the prolific scorer of his teams, shocking opponents with his touch.
Then the discussion about him turned to the question of him being a leader in the highest level. Has he a big ego? Is he a punk? Is he so in love with offense, that he doesn’t care about defense? After being named Greek league’s MVP for the 1st championship round, the discussion is heated again and nobody knows exactly what Pappas can do.
Can he also be a creator? Is he a top level athlete? Can he make his teammates better? Siena tried to sign him after flirting with him for a while, but the ambitious president of Paninios, Ilias Lianos, said no. He kept him in the Athenian suburb of Nea Smyrni, a place full of basketball tradition and coffee houses where we met him and talk to him (that’s way the sound of the videos is not the best possible and we apologize for that). It’s been a long time since then, Panionios had just been ingloriously disqualified by Eurocup, but what he said still stands.
Relaxed, honest and determined to have a career according to his potentials. He talked about his basketball, his feelings when his old teammates shocked CSKA, for European basketball, Panionios and the national team. And above all about his basketball example.
The next time, I want to be there too…
“We were one of the best and most successful generations of Greek basketball. Almost everyt player from those team managed to play in the Greek league and I am not speaking only about players of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. I think this had never happened before. It was obvious in the Euroleague final! Papanikolaou, Sloukas and Mantzaris were on the court while Olympiacos made his come back. Their long time together in the junior national teams was a factor”.
How did he felt when the Red miracle was completed: “I felt strange, it’s only human. I was zealous in a good way. But I also enjoyed it! It was something incredible. I saw my friends getting to the top of Europe, I was happy for them, but I wanted to be there. I was playing for many years with them, I know what I can do. My ego was hurt and on the same time I was happy for them, because they deserved it. I send a text message to Papanikolaoy immediately. I knew that I would be meeting Mantzaris in the following days. I just hope the next time that I will be there too”.
Why he wasn’t chosen?
We asked Nikos why he didn’t ended up last summer in one of the two Greek powerhouses and if that was also a blow to his ego.
“I felt ready, but it didn’t happen. I play for Panionios, a team not in the same level, but a very important club in the Greek league. Maybe there was some prejudice against me. I have also made my share of mistakes in a younger age. I was inexperienced, wild and some times naive. There were also faults in my game. My defense. A lot of people think that I don’t pay attention to defense. The title of “scorer” in Greece is misunderstood.
Many times the numbers are the best way to lie in basketball. Of course, I need to get better in defense in personal and team level. I am working on it, I want to be a full player and to be 100% ready to make the jump in the top level. Panionios is giving me the chance to get better and also be among the leaders of the team and I much appreciate that”.
How do you imagine yourself in a couple of years?
“I am ambitious. I want to win titles and play in Euroleague. That means that I have to improve my game. There are many great scorers who made history. I will do what I have to do, I will even change my style in order to knew, when I will retire from basketball, that I reached my full potentials, whichever there may be.
My absolute example is Spanoulis. There are other big players, but he is near the style that I prefer. He had evolved through the years and he is a leader. His mentality and his character had defined his career. It’s not easy to be like Spanoulis.
I hope that someday I can also be the leader of a team to success. With everything that’s happening this time in Greece it’s a blessing to just play basketball and not thinking anything else. It’s a big motive for me to be independent and be able to help my family and the people who are close to me”.
2012-13 1st round Greek League MVP, 3 times mvp of the week
2012-13 Eurocup: Top scorer of regular season (per minutes)
2010 Rookie of the year (Greece, A1)
2010 Silver Medal and Top Scorer (U-20 EC, Zadar),
2009 Gold Medal (U-20 EC, Rodos)
2009 Silver Medal (U-19 World Championship, New Zealand)
2008 Gold Medal (U-18 EC and All-star team, Amaliada)
2008 Gold Medal, top scorer & MVP of the Albert Schweitzer Tournament
2007 Silver Medal (U-18 EC, Madrid)
2006 3rd scorer in U-16 European Championship
MVP and top scorer of the 2007 World School Championship (40pts in the final)