Greek basketball legend, Nick Galis, was officially inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining 10 other members in the class of 2017.
It was a memorable day for Nick Galis and all of Greek Basketball as the “Gangster” was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Greek to join this distinct group of basketball legends. Galis joined 10 others inductees for the Class of 2017 including Zach Clayton, Robert Hughes, Mannie Jackson, Tom Jernstedt, Jerry Krause, Rebecca Lobo, George McGinnis, Tracy McGrady, Muffet McGraw, and Bill Self.
Nick Galis was the inductee of the International category, which includes players that do not come from the United States. Galis was first nominated for the Hall of Fame in 2013 but was beaten out in the running by Oscar Schmidt (2013), Sarunas Marciulionis (2014), Lindsay Gaze (2015), and Yao Ming in 2016, before being elected in 2017. The “Gangster” of Greek Basketball is only the sixth non-NBAer to join the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The ceremony took place on Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Galis received his award. In his white and black suit, he received a warm, standing ovation by the crowd and followed with an impactful speech (see video below).
“I would like to say that it is a great honor to be a member of the Hall of Fame. One of my dreams came true and next to me is Bob McAdoo, one of the greatest players I have ever played against in my career.”
“My dream was to play in the NBA and I was picked by the Celtics along with the great Larry Bird. I had many offers from teams in Greece and until then, I did not know there was basketball in Greece. Auerbach wanted me to stay, but I made a decision that I will never regret in my life. I went to Greece and in 1987, Greece won the European championship. The whole nation went to the streets, basketball became the national sport, and Greece is currently one of the best teams in European basketball. It was then that in every backyard, in every school playground, a basketball goal was placed.
Galis mentioned that winning titles is not everything when it comes to basketball and shared a touching, personal story. “One day, I was walking in my neighborhood in Thessaloniki and a lady stopped me. I thought she wanted a photo or an autograph. She yelled “Niko, Niko,” that is how they call me, She told me “I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart, because you have saved my son, you gave me the greatest gift.” She explained to me that her son was addicted to drugs and he overcome this problem by finding meaning in life through basketball.”
Galis ended his speech by thanking his coaches, teammates, Aris, and his family for the support he received throughout his life and career.
Nick Galis is widely considered the greatest basketball player in Greek history, in addition to being voted Greece’s best all-around athlete in 1986 and 1987. He led ARIS of Thessaloniki to seven straight Greek League championships and eight overall (1983, 1985-91). He led the Greece A-1 League in scoring a record 12 straight seasons, averaging 33.4 points per game in his career.
With Greece, Galis won a European Championship gold medal and European Championships MVP in 1987, while also taking home silver in 1989. Galis was named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991, and is a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame (2007). He played collegiately at Seton Hall and was inducted into the Seton Hall Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.
In addition to his career achievements, Galis is regarded as the man that “brought” basketball to Greece and fame to the sport throughout the country. The icing on the cake was Greece’s historic run to the 1987 European Championship title which paved the road for the future of Greek basketball and its great success since then.