By Aris Barkas / firstname.lastname@example.org
Vassilis Spanoulis announced on Saturday his retirement and once again, he chose the difficult path. In this case, difficult on a personal level, since until a few days ago, he was preparing for his big return to the Greek national team in the Olympic Qualifiers.
Spanoulis, however, proved to be an assassin once again, killing the player who, by moving from Panathinaikos to Olympiakos, changed the balance of powers in Greek and European basketball.
By now you know everything about Spanoulis’ career. His big moments, the numbers, the Euroleague records, and the trophies speak for themselves. In today’s digital age there are countless proofs recorded in video about his abilities.
However, what makes him the only player of the post-Nikos Galis era who approached the god of Greek basketball – and possibly reached him – was his unique ability to always make difficult decisions and to support them with religious fanaticism.
There is no other Greek player who jumped right in the peak of his career directly from Panathinaikos to Olympiakos and vice versa, at a time when both clubs were killing for his services. There is no other Greek player who knew very well where he was going to get involved, what would be waiting for him and did not hesitate.
Spanoulis, however, wanted to get involved and welcomed the trouble.
He wanted to be at the top from the moment he first stepped on a gym in his hometown, Larissa, and climbed, without being the most talented, or the most athletic, at the top of Europe.
Spanoulis is ruthless and cold. The definition of a “killer” on and off the floor. This is his side that he consciously chose to dominate his athletic career and maybe this is the only way to break your ceiling and reach where you can not.
That’s the only way to make really difficult decisions. And there was no more difficult decision than to stop playing basketball.
The possibility of retiring after a trip to Tokyo for the Olympics was extremely attractive and not unlikely.
But before Spanoulis started training with the national team, he believed that for at least one more season he could play for Olympiakos. Although it was clear that in the upcoming Olympiakos his role would be purely complementary, even symbolic.
Spanoulis as a player was not finished and given his performance last year, it was proven that he could still hold his own on the court. But, maybe he could no longer be the real Spanoulis, and the latest injury that left him out of the national team just before the trip to the Olympic qualifiers reminded him that.
There’s no bet that Spanoulis did not win, except in the case of the NBA. This is something that tempted him after his absolute recognition in Europe. Ultimately, he did not have the opportunity to return to the NBA and prove who he is in the US. This remains the only unanswered question as to what he could have accomplished if he persisted.
However, even leaving the NBA in the summer of 2007, turning his back on the contract he had for the 2007-08 season and the opportunity to play for the pro-Europeans San Antonio Spurs was not an easy decision. He knew he was closing a door behind him. The path he chose, however, led him to the realm of myth.
For a person who lives only for basketball, those kinds of decisions are waiting at every turn of their road. Many people understand this when they decide to dedicate themselves to professional sports.
Few have the mental toughness and strength of character to make these decisions. And even fewer can bear to support them until the very end of the road.
In European basketball, the example is one and only.