Playing your 200th Euroleague game is a special milestone for Panathinaikos’ Dimitris Diamantidis. The occasion though would have been more meaningful if the game tonight against Lokomotiv Kuban was played at the OAKA.
Instead Diamantidis and the Panathinaikos team will host the Russians 320 km away on the island of Crete, as the Greens will finish their two-game home ban tonight at the Heraklion Arena. And despite a strong pro-Panathinaikos crowd in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia for their first win at “home” win over Laboral Kutxa, the feeling of being the home team wasn’t exactly the same as being in Athens, where they play in-front of 18,000 people.
Diamantidis, who has become the 13th player to achieve the milestone hasn’t lost a step either, 200 games in. The Panathinaikos legend leads the Euroleague in assists at 8.3 a game and is getting exactly nine points in the competition’s early stages.
The former-Greece international has fond memories of his time so far in the Euroleague. Diamantidis has helped build Panathinaikos into one of the Euroleague’s most prominent clubs, reaching six Final Fours and being named MVP in their victorious seasons of 2007, 2009 and 2011. The veteran guard names one particular win as the most significant.
“The 2007 final [in Athens], no doubt,” he says fondly.
“Nothing can be compared to that final. It was my first Euroleague trophy, it was a trophy we all wanted so badly, because we were playing at home, with our fans.”
Diamantidis helped the Greens to a 93-91 win over the heavily fancied CSKA Moscow side that day, scoring 15 points.
“This is the most important trophy I have won at a club level, the first Euroleague title for me,” Diamantidis said back in 2007 after his first Euroleague win. To this day, it remains his finest moment in a green vest.
PAO win Euroleague crown in 2007:
The hunger to win has remained with Diamantidis, like a fire that hasn’t been extinguished since his arrival in 2004. His last victory back in 2011 in Barcelona against a strong Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv side will remain as one of the Euroleague finest performances in a Final Four. He scored 16 points, dished out nine assists and pulled down five rebounds in an all-round masterclass as his side defeated the Israelis 78-70.
It was in the Catalan capital that day where Diamantidis forever announced his loyalty to the Greens by shrugging off a move to the NBA by saying, “I will stay here at Panathinaikos.”
2011 Final Four; Panathinaikos 78-70 Maccabi (highlights)
No doubt, Diamantidis would have loved nothing more than to celebrate his 200 games with his side at the famous OAKA, where 18,000 people would have been screaming his name with a reception, similar to that of Mike Batiste’s return to Athens as a Fenerbahce player last season.
Instead, DD will have to settle for a crowd of approximately 5,500 at an arena mainly used as a training facility for the Greek national team. A fitting and deserved milestone for one the Euroleague’s most recognisable players. If you told him that he would be celebrating it on a Greek island though ……