02 - 10
July 2022
6 Nikos ZISIS (Greece)
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Zisis: ''A youth tournament made me fall in love with basketball''

MALAGA (Spain) - Nikos Zisis has spent the entirety of his adult life in basketball.

Yet it was in his youth that Zisis, who performed the draw at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in Malaga on Thursday, says he fell in love with the sport while playing for Greece.

Zisis made headlines as the top scorer at the 1999 FIBA European Championship for Cadets by averaging a tournament best 23.9 points per game and Greece made it to the Final. 

"It was an incredible experience," Zisis said. "I was top scorer even though we lost the Final against Serbia in Slovenia.


"But I must confess a secret: I fell in love with basketball a little before a tournament organized by FIBA 
but not officially. It was a tournament of friendship with France, Italy and Spain. We won there and I scored a key basket that made me crazy about basketball."

Zisis, probably more famous for winning FIBA EuroBasket 2005, reaching the Final of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2006 and finishing third at EuroBasket 2009, holds the youth tournament experiences with Greece very dear to his heart.

That's a message that he wants to get across to all the players that will be at the U17 World Cup, which tips off on July 2 in the Spanish cities of Marbella, Alhaurín de la Torre and Malaga, in Andalusia.

"Take advantage of every moment and enjoy this wonderful sport with your friends," he said.

Zisis had many friends from his days with Greece, none more important than Vasilis Spanoulis.

Spanoulis, Zisis (bottom left) have been best friends since their youth national team days

The two were on the Greece teams that finished third at the 2000 European Championship for Junior Men and first at the 2002 European Championship for Junior Men.

"Without a doubt my best friend, Vasilis Spanoulis," Zisis said. "Life and our careers would separate us, but our friendship remained. He is the godfather of my children and like a brother to me."

Every summer, Zisis recalls, was an opportunity to reconnect for all the Greek players.

"That was the key," he said. "We lived the national team every summer with much desire. Many of us were abroad and getting together again was very special every year."

Zisis and Spanoulis wrapped up their Greece careers at FIBA EuroBasket 2015 

So putting on the Greece jersey was always special.

"The fact that you represent your country and there can be no greater pleasure and honor," Zisis said. "You also make friends that you take with you for life."

It's a similar story with Spain's national team, one of Greece's rivals during Zisis's career. The Spanish players always looked forward to meeting up again with the good friends they had made while competing in youth tournaments.

The intensity of the showdowns between Greece and Spain was as high as it gets in international basketball.

Fan of Spanish basketball

"Spain has been an example for all of European basketball for the last 25 years," Zisis said. "An incredible story. I am a big fan of Spanish Basketball. I had the privilege of going through two ACB teams (Bilbao and Joventut Badalona) and I have great memories. But at the national team level it was incredible."

The youth and senior national team experiences were so rewarding for Zisis that almost immediately after announcing his retirement, he took on roles at FIBA and with the Greek Federation.

"Yes, I am very proud to belong