A tailor-made team: the reinvention after the failure of European champion Panathinaikos
JM González
May 27, 2024

Mathias Lessort’s inconsolable crying after one of the giraffes at the Uber Arena in Berlin perfectly reflected the feeling of Panathinaikos at that moment. The tears were not of sadness, but rather of deep happiness for one of the great figures of a team that was returning to European glory after 13 years. The rest of his teammates were celebrating, spread out on the playing field. And it was no wonder, the Greek team came back from the final against Real Madrid and thus won its seventh Euroleague title.

The comeback was worked hard and mathematically studied by coach Ergin Ataman. The PAO cut off the circuits of the most winning team in Europe, getting on their nerves and forcing them to take difficult shots that could not enter the hoop. From going 14 points down, to an outstanding second half that left a Real Madrid that looked tight and without ideas without resources. Perhaps surprised by a team that worked meticulously. Not only in this final that ended 80-95 in their favor, but since the beginning of the season with key changes to leave behind a 2022-2023 to be forgotten in the continent’s main club competition.

Panathinaikos today is European champion. Indisputable and commendable. But to get to that there was a path of negotiations and key signings to leave behind the previous season, in which they finished second to last in the same tournament. Major cleaning and new faces. A new mix whose ingredients were winners, finalists, former NBA players and, above all, ambition to change history.

And such a big team couldn’t be so low. The renewal started with the captain who built the Euroleague in Berlin. Kostas Sloukas, who had a great 24-point game against Real Madrid, moved from Olympiacos to Panathinaikos. From hate to love. From one classic to the other. And heading for revenge too, since he was part of that team that couldn’t in the final of the previous tournament against the same Spaniards who couldn’t stop him this time.

The renovation was such that a team of superstars was built around Sloukas. Kendrick Nunn shone with his own light in Berlin, in a step to glory for the American who saw his chances in the NBA closed after playing 193 games between Miami, the Lakers and the Wizards, and who lived with the greens for his first “over seas” experience. The same with Juancho Hernagomez, on the return to Europe for the one trained at Estudiantes de Madrid, who from 2016 to 2023 was in the colorful North American basketball.

And so, each to their own. Minutes or so, but they all had some importance in the title. The Argentine Luca Vildoza can say it, who, after being criticized by the Ataman himself, went on to add 13 minutes in the final against Real Madrid and was key in the record of his compatriot Facundo Campazzo.

Kostas Antetokounmpo is also part of the good examples. Although he has been in European basketball for years, he is one of those who was in the NBA and who focused attention during the Euroleague. None other than his brother Giannis was with him in the Berlin definition.

Panathinaikos became European champions and the experiment, the fair and well-oiled teams with an efficient technician, gave way to the feat that Greece will surely never forget.

Latest News