It’s not often that you see a 6’9 man cry uncontrollably, but that’s what happened last night to former Panathinaikos forward Mike Batiste on his return to the Greek capital with his current club Fenerbahce.
Batiste spent nine years at the Greek side, winning three Euroleague titles during his tenure before moving this past summer to the Asian side of Istanbul. Last night was his return to the club he still considers home and during his half-time speech to the 15,000 fans inside the OAKA, the Arizona State forward couldn’t keep his emotions hidden as he had to be consoled by another former Panathinaikos player Romain Sato.
“It was a great and unforgettable night for me,” Batiste said. “I came back home with so many friends around and with lots of great memories and strong emotions I experienced in the last nine years. I was welcomed by the fans and that is something I will never forget.”
Fenerbahce are currently in fourth place in Euroleague Group A on a 4-5 record and in danger of being eliminated if they don’t beat Cantu next week, and that is surprising considering they were one of the pre-competition favourites. Batiste’s old club Panathinaikos meanwhile are joint top of the group and have qualification ensured.
Batiste has said before that he is happy in Istanbul at the moment but hasn’t ruled out a return to Athens in the near future.
“The future is unpredictable,” he said. “You may see me again here as a player, you may not. But the memories will last a lifetime.”
Sato, who moved with Batiste to Turkey this season from Panathinaikos was cheered loudly when he took the court to warm-up, pre-game. He expressed his feelings after the game as well.
“I feel good being back here and I enjoyed the cheers from the fans,” Sato admitted.
Panathinaikos travel to Russia next week to face BC Khimki, who are currently undefeated on their home court and hold a vital away win over the Greens from earlier on in the group. If Panathinaikos end the unbeaten home streak, they win the group.