Greek basketball legend Nikos Galis is among the 2013 nominees for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The list also includes nine-time All-Star Gary Payton and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf among others. Show your support for Nick Galis by voting here.
Born Nikolaos Georgalis, the child of a poor immigrant family from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Nisyros, Nick (as he was called in U.S.A.) took up boxing in his early years, his father George Georgalis having also been a boxer in his youth. He was persuaded to give up boxing by his mother Stella Georgalis, who was terrified each time that her son would return with a new facial injury. As a result, he started playing basketball.
After high school, Galis enrolled at Seton Hall University as a college basketball player. In his senior season, Galis saw his scoring average reach 27.5 points per game, which was third in the nation behind Idaho State’s Lawrence Butler (30.1 ppg) and Indiana State’s Larry Bird. Galis’ coach at Seton Hall, Billy Raftery, would later state that Galis was the best player he ever coached. Finishing his collegiate career in 1979, Galis was eventually selected by the Boston Celtics in the 4th round of the 1979 NBA Draft, 68th overall.
Due to a severe injury that he suffered during the Celtics pre-season training camp, the franchise was no longer interested in offering him a contract because Gerald Henderson had taken his place and his injury would keep him out for the foreseeable future. It was then that Galis decided to pursue a professional career in Greece’s Basket League. Galis would later be offered NBA contracts by the Celtics and the New Jersey Nets while he was playing in Greece, but he turned the offers down because at the time FIBA did not have professional status, something it did not gain until the year 1989, and therefore Galis would not have been allowed to play for the Greek national team if he was an NBA player. Since playing for Greece’s national team meant so much to Galis, he stayed in Greece. Celtics legend Red Auerbach later said that the single biggest mistake he ever made in his career was not keeping Galis.
Galis played the point guard position during his college years, but turned into a shooting guard as a professional. He spent most of his career in Aris, before having a late stint with Panathinaikos. He is the Euroleague’s all-time leader in both career points scored and points per game (counting both FIBA and ULEB games), leading the competition in scoring eight times. In the premier european club competition, he reached the Euroleague Final Four on four occasions, three consecutive ones with Aris (1988–90), and another one with Panathinaikos (1994). Galis is also the Greek Championship’s all-time leading scorer in both career points scored and points per game (counting all the formats in league history). In addition to that, he holds the FIBA World Championship scoring records for the highest career points per game average, as well as the most points ever scored at a World Championship tournament, which he set at the 1986 FIBA World Championship.
Galis led the Greek national team to a EuroBasket gold medal in 1987, as well as to a EuroBasket silver medal in 1989, earning the tournament MVP honor in 1987, and being elected to the All-EuroBasket Team both times.
Galis was named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991, is an inaugural member of the FIBA Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors, on February 3, 2008.
Galis is widely regarded as one of Europe’s all-time greatest players in professional club basketball history, as well as one of the all-time greatest players in FIBA international basketball history. He is highly revered in Greece, where he is considered by many to be the greatest individual athlete that the country has ever had. His years at Aris lifted Greek basketball from relative obscurity, into common public entertainment, with Galis being the figure that eventually inspired thousands of Greeks to take up the sport of basketball.
The finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be announced over the All-Star Weekend in February, and then the class will be announced during the NCAA Final Four in April.
Show your support for Nick Galis by voting here.