A comparison between Vassilis Spanoulis, Milos Teodosic and Acie Law from the perspective of a Turkish basketball enthusiast.

Usually, Hollywood films give us a hero and we watch him doing abnormal things. He is usually a hard-worker, kind, good-hearted and nice person with brilliant and extraordinary skills. He doesn’t want to kill his rivals actually, he just does it if he really needs to and not because of personal revenge, but just because the villain is too harmful for the sake of world. There is nothing personal. Hero saves the world and movie ends.

An anti-hero; instead, still saves the world but via different methods. Despite his uniqueness, talents and genius mind, he has some deficiencies that he is not ashamed for. Not always he is a kind person and he does not feel obliged to help others. He does things for personal satisfaction or obsessions that he developed inside him. He is cruel if he needs, he has no problem with giving harm to people especially, they are evil. Moreover, anti-hero sometimes takes it personal.

I was thinking about what should I write about Vassilis Spanoulis. The first thing that came to mind was to compare him with the two greatest Greek basketball players ever, Nikos Galis and Panagiotis Giannakis. I was thinking about to tag Spanoulis like “The new Galis or Giannakis.” One of those tags or may be both, was possibly used for Spanoulis before but personally, I never came across so I wanted to revisit that topic. The real problem was this: Which one he was more alike? Galis or Giannakis. I went to a Greek journalist, Alexios Tsatsoulis and told him about the topic that I had in mind. All in all, Tsatsoulis was more experienced than me and had a chance to watch them closely, when they were still playing professional basketball. After the discussion, he told me that if that was Galis to have the last ball of the game, he would shoot and if Giannakis, he would pass. I totally agreed. But Alexios, added: “If that Galis, he would not miss.”

What would have been expected from Spanoulis, the man from Larissa? Didn’t he worked with Giannakis while rising through the ranks of Maroussi and declaring to the world that “I am here”? Wasn’t it Giannakis, who opened the doors of national team to him? Of course he would pass the last ball, like his ex-coach. That was the signature of his greatness. While taking all the responsibility in harsh situations, carrying the team towards success with his absolute leadership skills, he somehow managed to take a step behind and did not try to put himself in front of the team. May be that was the hardest thing, while being the star, not disturbing the team effort.

Spanoulis found success in every team that he played and he was applauded. “Thanks to Olympiakos president, who brought me here.” he said and added: “Thanks to fans, who always supported me and did not care that I came from PAO and tried to help me.” in the late-time press conference after the final. The man who changed the destiny of many teams, including Turkey in Eurobasket 2009*, changed the fate of, this time, Olympiakos too. He did what David Rivers did in ‘97 Final Four as a son of Greek basketball with his bald and bearded appearance. He was a hero, not like Superman with fancy costume but his altruism humbleness. “I am happy for my friend, Printezis because he managed to recover from some difficulties in the last couple of years“ he said, while the League titles that were lost against Panathinaikos, was still haunting him apparently.” I had so many sleepless nights, I was so upset after some losses and God helps who deserve and work hard.” Finally, Red-Whites were awarded a European title and knew that all those efforts were not in vain.

Milos Teodosic, was a winner, too. However, let’s first talk about his ‘free throw nightmares’ that he saw whenever he came to Istanbul this year. Remember, while Galatasaray won against CSKA, he was given the ball on foul line with a few seconds left and the team was behind two points. He missed the first free meant that he had no chance but to miss the second in order to force and offensive board. That did not work either and CSKA was beaten for the first time in Euroleague season, in İstanbul. His semi-final adventure is easy to remember. Against Panathinaikos, he got the ball in one of the last offenses and probably did travelling. The referees, however, thought differently and sent him to the charity line again. Teodosic, missed both and gave a chance to Panathinaikos. Luckily for him, Diamantidis could not shoot the ball meant that CSKA advanced. “If we had lost, I would have cried a lot” he would admit after the game. It was revealed afterwards  that he had to wait for that, at least two more days, until the end of the final or the “Famous Sunday” . Actually, before Ramaunas Siskauskas missed the frees, he was the one to miss one another free throw and let Olympiiakos to keep their hopes and  margin within  3 points.

What is more important in my opinion-apart from the free throws -was his approach to the game overall. Once there was a famous commercial motto in my country, Turkey.  It was like: ”An uncontrolled power, is not  power at all.” It should be counted as very normal that Jonas Kazlauskas, who was on his first season with CSKA, had difficulty to keep Teodosic in control,  considering that before all, even his compatriot master coach, Dusan Ivkovic had sometimes problems about it before.

Teodosic-I repeat- is a game winner guard but beyond that, he wants to ‘be’ the game winner himself.  Sometimes he gives too much importance to this that can eventually cause him to forget about the team without intention, whether they are winning or not. In my opinion, with that approach, with his exaggerated self confidence and uncontrolled individuality mixed with extraordinary talent that usually brings victories for his teams, he represents an anti-hero. I don’t see any reason why I cannot find an analogy between him and Diana Taurasi. US based star, who is accepted as one of the greatest women players ever,  spent the season with Galatasaray and despite scoring 30+ in some matches, she could not help  the team losing against Fenerbahce in both Euroleague and TKBL finals beyond that.

In “The final” Teodosic, whenever he was worried and saw a problem coming for CSKA, he tried to solve all those himself and started to play the hero. Most of the occasion, he could not remember that maybe there is a better teammate with better position to use the ball. Sometimes, he sent a lot of three points but at the same time, energized the dynamics that would eventually disrupt the team and lead them to defeat. As Kazlauskas summarized in one sentence:”Teodosic, lost the control on team.” Right after that, the Reuters reporter Zoran Milosalvjevic answered him with this: ”May be, that’s because he stayed more than enough in the game?” Normally, Kazlauskas did not want to give a clear answer for that because coaches, generally does not like to get suggestions from journalists.

Moreover, I really don’t understand why people waited to  talk about these traits of Teodosic until he failed. When he started playing at Olympiakos, I remember, Giannakis did not put him on the team sometimes and there were even rumours that he could leave  for another team.** However, after Ivkovic came, he started to play better, work more and became a real leader. Lastly, let’s more to World Championships in 2010 and the quarter finals. Was that three pointer that he sent from downtown that stunned Spanish and gave Serbia a ticket for semis, a correct choice? Turning  back to CSKA, if there is someone to play the  hero in decisive minutes, shouldn’t that be Andrei Kirilenko?  He did not step up because he thought that someone could  do it better? I don’t think so.

Teodosic acted as an anti-hero but eventually, found an opportunity get a lesson from his Serbian national team coach about team play which he can use to reconsider and shape  his approach to guide him through his long career in the future. He must have seen that sometimes, shooting 3 pointers and acting like an NBA player, could cost games.And what about Acie Law? What does the guy doing here? Didn’t we come to the natural end of article? Well, according to Ivkovic, not yet.

When Ivkovic was asked about the hero of the game, he said that there are many heroes but in his own opinion, it was Acie Law.  That surprised many though. However, truthfully, the case of Law was interesting. When I asked Ivkovic about Law and his swollen  ankle, he answered me:” It seems that, the possibility of Law playing in the final is very low” I was surprised when I see the US guard on court, but any how, he found a way to deal with injury and  could play.

Coming to Europe during lockout, Law found a good harmony with Nikola Pekovic and Milan Macvan at Partizan. He was not so consistent though, some opinions were against him among Partizan followers. When Olympiakos signed him mid-season, it was not very easy to find minutes and make people believe in him. Ivkovic, however, foresaw his importance in the defense and teamplay. Without doubt, it was simply impossible to be in the starting five of Vlade Jovanovic, the coach of Partizan without giving too much importance for defence and teamwork so that was proving  his projected role.

The process of  turning into a  “bad man” of Law, was accelerated in the semi-final encounter against Barcelona. After he was on court in the last quarter, some wrong choice-shots combined with turnovers, accumulated with his easy fouls that let Barcelona players score from free throws, Law had real difficulty. He made his fifth foul by an offensive one in of the most crucial offenses of the game and he was heading to bench  with pain both literally and figuratively. Luckily, Marcelinho Huertas came up with a controversial decision to shoot a three pointer and while there was time and missed; Olympiakos advanced.

In the final, the ‘injured’ Law could not start the game very well, possibly for obvious reasons. However, during the game,  interestingly, he started to guard Teodosic with that injury. I think Ivkovic was right; Law stopped Teodosic with pain in his leg, did not make him look to the rim and deserved applause. He was promoted to ‘hero’ status in the end after some hard days.

* At Eurobasket 2009, Turkey won again all but the one (against Slovenia) of groups matches until they met with Greece in the quarters. In overtime, Spanoulis had a great display that the official site of the tournament put the game report title as “Span-Tacular.”

**As an endnote in the ”Childress out for 40 days” article.