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Greece mourns loss of basketball giant Pavlos Giannakopoulos
ATHENS - European basketball is in mourning following the passing on Sunday of Pavlos Giannakopoulos, one of the sport's most recognizable figures in the continent. He was 89.
Giannakopoulos will be remembered for the immense success that Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos achieved during his 25-year term (1987-2012) as the club's president. Under his leadership - and with the help of his brother Thanasis - "The Greens" won 13 Greek titles, 9 Greek Cups, 6 Euroleague titles and 1 Intercontinental Cup.
He was responsible for bringing to Panathinaikos some of biggest names - both players and coaches - in European and world basketball. These included the likes of Dejan Bodiroga, Dimitris Diamantidis, Nikos Galis, Panagiotis Giannakis, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Michael Koch, Bozidar Maljkovic, Zeljko Obradovic, Zarko Paspalj, Nikola Pekovic, Dino Radja, Vassilis Spanoulis, Byron Scott and Dominique Wilkins.
Thanasis Giannakopoulos, Dominique Wilkins and Pavlos Giannakopoulos celebrate winning the Euroleague in 1996
Giannakopoulos' son, Dimitris, took over as President of Panathinaikos following his father's departure.
Born in Peloponese in 1929, Giannakopoulos came from a very modest background but this didn't hold him back. With the help of his brothers, he built an empire from the ground up. He started out running in a pharmacy in the city center and climbed his way up the ladder all the way to becoming the head of the Greek pharmaceutical company Vianex.
He achieved legendary status that earned him the respect of fans of all teams in Greece and beyond, not only those of Panathinaikos.
FIBA Secretary General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member Patrick Baumann said: "On behalf of FIBA, I wish to extend our sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to Pavlos Giannakopoulos' family and loved ones, as well as to the club of Panathinaikos and to all involved in Greek basketball. His impact and contributions to our sport were truly remarkable and will forever be remembered."
June 10 has been a symbolic date for Giannakopoulos in his association with Panathinaikos. It was on that day in 1971, he signed to join the general assembly of the club's football side. Then, on that very same day in 1987, is when he took charge of the club's president (for all sports other than football).
Panathinaikos hailed Giannakopoulos as a force who "changed the course of history in Greek basketball and Greek sports".