The Crossover returns with a special edition as Joe Arlauckas goes to Athens to speak to Theo Papaloukas in the first of several special episodes this season to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague!
A veteran of nine Final Fours, the former CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos Piraeus superstar talks about his two EuroLeague-winning seasons with CSKA and the many times in which his teams came close to European glory, campaigns often curtailed by stinging defeats to big rivals and even good friends.
Papaloukas discusses his unprecedented experiences as a player who rarely started but reached the heights of success. He became a Final Four MVP in 2006 to end CSKA’s 35-year quest for a new title.
The next year, he was voted the EuroLeague’s full-season MVP, a first for a player who came off the bench almost exclusively, and a remarkable achievement for someone who worked his way up from small teams and did not debut in the EuroLeague until age 24.
“If you start from a small team, local team, it’s like you live your dream,” Papaloukas says. “And when you see that all the things you are dreaming, they are coming true, it’s amazing.”
Papaloukas speaks about his special relationship with the player who started ahead of him at CSKA for six years, J.R. Holden, and who shares his record of eight consecutive Final Fours.
“It was really hard to work with J.R.,” Papaloukas says. “You were thinking, ‘What’s better, to play against J.R. five times per year or to play against him every day?’
He helped me very much to grow my game. If you play against him the whole season you don’t have an option but to become a better player. He helped you not only like an athlete. He helped you grow your mind.”
His long trajectory at the heights of the game and especially in the decisive moments of the season gives Papaloukas a perspective like few others on the EuroLeague’s evolution over the years.
“EuroLeague is growing, and it’s growing good,” he said. “The important thing I love to see from the Euroleague is they try to improve. The moment they see they can do something better than now, they will do it.”
With the same one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover’s 20th anniversary special episodes will be reviewing the EuroLeague’s modern history in its 20th season of this century by talking to the legends who have made the competition more popular than ever.