By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday (11/5), Olympiacos captain Vassilis Spanoulis was officially named in the All-EuroLeague Second Team for 2017-2018. This is the eighth time that the Greek combo guard is selected in an All-EuroLeague team and this achievement places him at the top of the related list.
Spanoulis, 36, surpassed iconic Barcelona captain and EuroLeague all-time scoring leader Juan Carlos Navarro who has seven All-EuroLeague Team appearances (First Team: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, Second Team: 2012, 2013) in the 17 years he played in EuroLeague (post-2001). It’s huge but still not the most admirable aspect of what the Reds’ superstar has managed.
More than anything, this accomplishment greatly demonstrates how incomparably consistent Spanoulis’ high-level basketball output has been over his EuroLeague journeys. After all, no other out of all EuroLeague champions, individual award multi-winners and frequent All-Team members have had such a continuous, steady success over such a large span of years in their careers.
And in Spanoulis’ case, we are talking about a stretch of 12 years. He was nearly 24 when he first made the All-EuroLeague Team and will celebrate his 36th birthday come August. 12 years, eight All-EuroLeague Team appearances.
Spanoulis won his first All-EuroLeague Team honor back in 2006. He had just finished that season, his maiden campaign in the competition, as the top scorer and passer of Panathinaikos with 14.6 points (on 49% shooting from the field) and 3.1 assists respectively when he was mostly coming off the bench. His offensive flair was enough to attract the interest of the Houston Rockets who signed the Greek combo guard to a contract. As you probably already know, of course, following the completion of 2006 – 2007, Spanoulis came back in Europe where he was bound to make history, in a manner most wouldn’t expect.
Since his return to EuroLeague, Spanoulis proceeded to guide a star-laden Panathinaikos squad to fifth EuroLeague title in the history of the franchise in 2009, earning the second All-EuroLeague Team honor of his career. His masterful quarterfinal performances (12.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds on average) with him primarily assuming a playmaking role against Montepaschi Siena, were followed by the Final Four in Berlin and the MVP award after scoring 18 points in the semifinal vs. Olympiacos and 13 in the title game against CSKA Moscow.
On Summer 2010, Spanoulis made a much-discussed jump from Panathinaikos to arch-rival Olympiacos. It was a highly daring move, considering that the player left the most winningest club in modern (post-2000) EuroLeague (and also Greece) to join a team with merely one title (the 2010 Greek Cup) in eight years. 2010-2011 wasn’t combined with any significant team success, save for the repeat in the domestic Cup, but Spanoulis was once again selected to the All-EuroLeague Second Team by finishing the season with 14.2 points and 4.3 assists per game.
The best was yet to come of course.
2011-2012 will go down in history as the biggest challenge in Spanoulis’ career and, at the same time, his greatest triumph. Olympiacos had undergone a major overhaul during the summer since the club management decided to proceed with a squad manned mostly by young players, led by a highly experienced coach such as Dusan Ivkovic, and only one established (at that moment) star on the floor: Spanoulis. Against all odds and predictions, underdog Olympiacos didn’t only make it to the Final Four but won the title after a comeback for the ages against CSKA Moscow in the Final. “Kill Bill”, who averaged 16.7 points and 4 assists in the season, completed this dreamy campaign with yet another All-EuroLeague selection, this time for the First Team plus his second Final Four MVP award thanks to an average of 18 points plus 4.5 assists in the tournament.
The year that followed, Olympiacos won the back-to-back EuroLeague title and Spanoulis added once again the pair of All-EuroLeague First Team and Final Four MVP distinctions to his trophy case. Only this time, he included the one thing he was missing: A season MVP award.
Spanoulis completed 2012-2013 with 14.7 points plus 5.5 assists per game and numerous impressive performances but the grand finale, the second half of the EuroLeague Final vs. Real Madrid where he dropped 22 points and five 3-pointers (including the dagger from 30 feet) was definitely the highlight of the season.
Olympiacos didn’t manage to make the three-peat next season since Real Madrid prevailed in the quarterfinals 3-2 but Spanoulis once again found himself as an All-EuroLeague (Second Team) member, this time via the 15.1 points and 4.6 assists he posted per game.
V-Span propelled the Reds’ return to a Final Four in 2015 and this also marked his reappearance in the All-EuroLeague First Team, mostly thanks to the playoff performances vs. Barcelona where he averaged 16 points and 6.6 assists in the three consecutive games his team won in the series. Olympiacos advanced to the Final thanks to a monumental last-minutes blast by Spanoulis vs. CSKA but Real Madrid overpowered them in the title game.
Following 2015-2016 where Olympiacos didn’t make the playoffs, Spanoulis took over during the next season to ensure that he and his teammates will be back among the elite. With Anadolu Efes up 2-1 in the playoffs, the then-35-year-old dropped 18 points and four assists in a Game 4 win and then 22 points plus six dimes in Game 5 to send Olympiacos in the Final Four.
Many (including yours truly) believed that these feats warranted an All-EuroLeague ticket, but Spanoulis wasn’t among the selections. After another victory over CSKA in the semifinal, Fenerbahce dominated the Reds to win their first EuroLeague title in the history of the club and Turkish Basketball.
This season, however, Spanoulis once again checked his name into the All-EuroLeague squad. While Zalgiris Kaunas delivered the upset of the season in the playoffs against Olympiacos to advance in the Final Four, Spanoulis was voted by Media and Fans after finishing 2017-2018 with 14 points and 5.6 assists per game.
So far the tally for Vassilis Spanoulis is eight All-EuroLeague Team Selections (three on the first team, five on the second team), three Final Four MVP awards and one Season MVP. 12 individual awards in total.
No other player has more than nine, while Spanoulis has embarked in less EuroLeague seasons than Navarro and the same as former teammate with Panathinaikos Dimitris Diamantidis, both in the Top 5 of the list of players with the most All-EuroLeague selections and both legends of the competition.
Still, as mentioned above, the most impressive part is that Spanoulis has played All-EuroLeague level basketball at both 24 and 36 years of age. Truly unique.