Home Columns Blogs EuroLeague All-Decade Series: Dimitris Diamantidis – Diamond is forever

EuroLeague All-Decade Series: Dimitris Diamantidis – Diamond is forever

Photo: EuroLeague Basketball

Dimitris Diamantidis is one of the 10 chosen players in the EuroLeague Basketball 2010-2020 All-Decade Team.

This is the second time Dimitris Diamantidis made it into the best 10 players of the decade in the EuroLeague. The first time was from the period of 2000-2010. He played 6 years in the first decade and 6 years in the second of the EuroLeague. All that time, Dimitris Diamantids was the player of Panathinaikos from Athens.

The former Greek guard/small forward started his professional career in BC Iraklis from Thessaloniki in 1999. He was there till 2004 when he moved to Phanatinaikos whose coach was Želimir “Željko” Obradović.

In 2004, Dimitris Diamantidis had doubts about making his dream come true and his former teammate Fragiskos Alvertis (5-time EuroLeague champion, Panathinaikos Athens legend) wanted to convince him to play with the Athens Greens.

“I was trying to explain to him that the only chance to complete his dreams was Panathinaikos because he had all the things that one athlete needs to become a superstar,” said Fragiskos Alvertis in the documentary about Dimitris Diamantids called “A Diamantidis is forever”.

And Alvertis was right. Diamantids had all those qualities to become the fifth EuroLeague legend (before him that award was given to Theodoros Papaloukas, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ramūnas Šiškauskas and Šarūnas Jasikevičius). The Greek legend received the award before the EuroLeague match against Cedevita in 2016. But he thought that the award belonged to fans, players and coaching staff that made an impact on his career.

And when you mention the coaching staff, one name is on the top of the list – name of the Serbian coach Želimir “Željko” Obradović. Those two made into the history with Panathinaikos. It was the coach-player relationship rarely seen in modern sports. I am not sure I have ever seen that kind of bond between the coach and the player. The proof of the great bond was Željko Obradović’s statement:

“I would like when my son grows up to be a kind of a person Dimitris is,”

Dimitris Diamantidis and Željko Obradović won every possible club trophy together and among all those trophies were three EuroLeague titles: in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Photo: SDNA.gr

Wearing green uniform Dimitris Diamantidis experienced all the greatest successes in his career and won a lot of team and individual trophies. Besides the EuroLeague All-Decade team (2000-2010 and 2010-2020) and EuroLeague legend trophy (2016), the left-handed guard was 2 times EuroLeague Final Four MVP (2007, 2011), 2 times EuroLeague assists leader (2011, 2014), he was chosen 4 times in All EuroLeague First Team (2007, 2011-2013), 6 times EuroLeague Best Defender (2005-2009, 2011). And all those were only trophies from the EuroLeague while “3D” (Dimitris Diamantidis defender) has also trophies from the Greek championship.

Dimitris Diamantidis was the best “stealer” in the EuroLeague and the best rebounder among guards, and as Željko Obradović once said:

“If somebody steals the ball from him, he was able immediately to take the ball back”.

And that how powerful in defense was Dimitris Diamantidis, the nickname “3D” explains it all. His way of reading the game and reading the opponent made him that great. And if those trophies weren’t enough to convince how great impact he left on the court may be the words from one of the best players in the world, the late Kobe Bryant can assure everybody.

The Lakers’ late legend played with and against many great players during his Lakers’ career but didn’t hesitate to give a name when asked if there was one player he wished he could have had on his team during his playing days, in an interview for FIBA official website.

“Well, there’s a player from back in the day that I played against who I wish I had on my team. His name is (Dimitris) Diamantidis from Greece. I love and wish I had him. His length and his size, and what he could do defensively, I would have loved to have another player on the wing who could harass little point guards,” Bryant explained.

Photo: AGONAsport.com

And what made Bryant said something like that was probably the lucrative role Diamantidis played in Greece’s run to the Finals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, especially after Greece defeated the mighty United States 101-96 in the semifinals.

So Kobe Bryant was convinced that Dimitris Diamantids was good enough to play in the NBA, but the left-handed guard wasn’t. He was undrafted in 2002 and he said that he wasn’t for the NBA.

As a big fan, I think Diamantids was wrong about the NBA, but I am glad he didn’t play there because he made a great impact on the younger players playing for the only one club in the EuroLeague. And his words described how much Panathinaikos meant to him.

“This team for me was a miracle because I didn’t expect my career to be like this. I am blessed that I lived all these moments“, said Diamantidis in the documentary about him.

It is a blessing to love what you do, and looking like that Diamantidis was blessed for doing what he loves, but his teammates were also blessed for having him on their side because he was doing everything for the team and he made all around him better players. And his ex-coach Željko Obradović trusted him a lot.

“Both as a player and as a person he is priceless to the coach. He puts us all in a position to fight for everything,” said Obradović in an interview about Dimitris Diamantidis.

In Greece, when you mention Dimitris Diamantidis people will also connect him with Vassilis Spanoulis. One is the legend of Panathinaikos and the other of Olympiacos, so the rivalry of those two excellent players is even more interesting because of the “eternal rivalry” between those two clubs. But Spanoulis played one year with Diamantidis in Panathinaikos (season 2006/2007) and afterward signed with Olympiacos, where this season became the All-Time Top Scorer in the EuroLeague.

Because both players are coming from Greece and playing with (in Panathinaikos and national team) and against each other, there will always be an open discussion who is the better player. In that discussion, if you choose one, you will have to be subjective, but if you look from an objective point of view, you couldn’t ask for the better player to “ruin” Dimitris Diamantidis farewell game.

And famous “Billy” did it in the fourth game of the Greek championship Finals in 2016. Vassilis Spanoulis made the three-pointer in the second overtime on Diamantidis home court. Panathinaikos was leading by 2 but failed to foul Spanoulis and prevent him from attempting a three-pointer. The man-of-the-finals took his chances, stepped back and away from Diamantidis and made a shot for the final result of 81:82 for Olympiacos. With this shot, he put an end to the amazing career of his rival on the court.

Photo: AGONAsport.com

After the match when Diamantidis was asked about the last shot, he said with a smile:

“It had to be Billy.

With those few words, Dimitris Diamantidis explained the rivalry on the court and mutual respect between those two. And even though it was his last game and everyone was thinking that he deserved better farewell than this one, the 3D knew that you couldn’t win it all. That is one of the reasons he is the real legend, even though the Greek left-handed guard doesn’t think about himself as a legend.

“Legend probably is only the name. I don’t think about myself as a legend,” Dimitris Diamantidis was a modest guy off the court.

The Greek guard was not comfortable with cameras and spotlights off the court probably because on the court he was only doing what he loves and what is necessary for the team. He didn’t need the spotlight, he just needed basketball, but we will all have to agree with Željko Obradović statement:

“Basketball needs Dimitris Diamantidis.”

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