The history of the National basketball team from its origin, in 1936, until 2009.
Vangelis Fountoukidis, Phaedon Matthaiou, Kostas Mourouzis, Alekos Spanoudakis, Philippos Syrigos, Giorgos Trontzos, Kostas Politis, Giorgos Kolokythas, Vassilis Goumas, Steve Yatzoglou, Vassilis Skountis, Apostolos Kontos, Vangelis Alexandris, Haris Papageorgiou, Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, Yannis Ioannidis, Manthos Katsoulis, Panagiotis Yannakis, Nikos Galis, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Fanis Christodoulou, Liveris Andritsos, David Stergakos, Giorgos Sigalas, Thodoris Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis.
This is yet another episode featuring numerous and great names; 26 major personalities.
I think that this two-part tribute to the National basketball team is filled with even greater emotion, as it is focused on a team that had more and far greater success, in comparison with the National football team.
There was an impressive and moving reference to the early, difficult years in 1936 and, moreover, to the early post-war years until the late 60s, when basketball was trying to find its way.
Phaedon Matthaiou, shortly before his death, talks about the eventful and amateurish participation of the team in the pre-Olympic tournament in Helsinki, in 1952.
Kostas Mourouzis recalls that during the years when he had shone while playing for Bologna, where he had been top scorer for four years, before every game, he would always play the Greek national anthem from a small 45rpm record to raise his morale.
Alekos Spanoudakis remembers the first major victory over Yugoslavia, in Belgrade, in 1953. Then “the torch is passed onto” to the famous and ill-fated generation of the 70s. Trontzos, Goumas and Yatzoglou, whose sense of humor and storytelling charisma take the viewer’s breath away.
The famous Giorgos Kolokythas, in his only TV appearance, suggests why he was regarded so great.
And then we move on to the generation of the 1987 triumph.
Everyone involved, is interviewed and most prominently, the great Nikos Galis, in one of his few TV appearances; his words are touching and revealing.
Galis along with Yannakis, Fasoulas, Christodoulou, Andritsos, Kostas Politis and Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, formed an extraordinary chapter about the 1987 victory, which extended for the most of the second part.
And, of course, we move on to the great team of the 2005 and 2006 European Championship in Belgrade and the victory over the United States, in 2006.
Diamantidis, Papaloukas and Panagiotis Yannakis, as the coach, talk extensively about the last great triumphs in Greek basketball.
The contribution of Philippos Syrigos and Vassilis Skountis in this two-part episode, as well as in all other basketball related episodes was great.
I had been very good friends with Philippos for some time before the filming and his enthusiastic participation in the series, in his typically amazing style, was not his only gift to me. He also helped me get in touch with many people, such as Giorgos Kolokythas.
One of the greatest inspirations I had for this movie is what follows:
Before each filming session there was a blank period, during which lighting and sound were checked. In those moments, the speaker faced the camera without talking. We took all these pieces of footage, picked all the smiling shots, and made a sequence to dress up Konstantinos Kamaras’s narration about the different generations of Greek basketball.
This succession of the smiling faces of the main representatives in each generation, from Matthaiou and Mourouzis to Trontzos and Kolokythas, and then to the unruly generation of the 70s with Goumas and Yatzoglou, to the golden boys of 1987 with Galis, Yannakis, Fasoulas, Christodoulou and finally to the heroes of the present, Diamantidis and Papaloukas, was a wonderfully moving moment, placed just before the finale.
It was a great idea of Dora Masklavanou who did the editing.
But the finale of the film was even greater, with Galis saying he never regretted not going to play for the NBA, as someone had to ignite the first spark that launched Greek basketball...
Getting Nikos Galis to give an interview was very adventurous. It was not easy. Nor was it taken for granted. We had set up camp in Thessaloniki for a month and a half, to do all the filming for the series that was going to take place in northern Greece.
I had made a few attempts while still in Athens, but I could not get Galis on the phone. At the time, Philippos Syrigos was not on good terms with him, so he could not help.
While in Thessaloniki I decided to locate his house. I went there and stood waiting outside. For two hours. At some point, his very nice wife showed up. I explained to her what I wanted. The window was open, and I believe he could hear everything we were saying. His wife promised me that she would give it a try. But to no effect. We went on with the filming and interviewed the well-known journalist fromThessaloniki, Paris Kalimeridis, who used to have a close relationship with Galis and had interviewed him several times.
He gave me the 'key'. Which was Yannis Ioannidis. I thought that Galis and Ioannidis were no longer on speaking terms, but Kalimeridis told me that things had changed.
Yannis Ioannidis had been scheduled to be filmed on the following day.
We had turned a room in the hotel where we were staying (the well-known Olympia) into a studio.
Ioannidis arrived and we started shooting. It went very well, and since he had to be interviewed for a number of episodes, (Aris, Olympiacos, AEK and the National team) we did not manage to finish. Ioannidis was a deputy minister of Sports at the time.
He had to return to Athens and he would get back to Thessaloniki the following weekend. “We will finish filming, then”, he told me.
I plucked up the courage and asked him to intervene and get Galis to appear on camera.
Without second thought, he said "...Consider it done...".
"...that simple?..."I said.
"...When Ioannidis talks, you should listen...." he answered smiling...
The following day, at noon, my cell rang.
"...Nikos Galis...' said a familiar voice. "...where is the filming?...".
Having succeeded not to drop the cellphone, we arranged for him to come an hour later.
Kalimeridis had warned me that I should pose the most crucial questions first because there was a possibility he would get bored or angry at something, and leave without any warning.
Finally he showed up on time on time and was a regular God.
He was very simple, kind, childlike, he talked for much longer than we had agreed and his interview was amazing.
I think It is one of his best TV appearances.
When we finished, I asked him if he could wait for me for a while. I rushed to my room a few doors away and returned with one of the books I used, in order to prepare for my interviews. It was the history of Aris basketball team.
I gave it to him and he signed for me the only autograph I have ever requested in my life.
"...To Elias with love..."., he wrote. And he signed it. In English and Greek!!!
Ioannidis (but Kalimeridis as well...) had worked wonders...
I failed to mention, although I think it is glaringly obvious that Nikos Galis is my greatest sports idol. The great hero of my childhood and teenage years...