Nikolaos Georgalis, commonly known as either Nikos Galis (Greek: Νίκος Γκάλης), or Nick Galis (born July 23, 1957), is a retired Greek-American professional basketball player. He was named one of FIBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1991, is an inaugural member of the FIBA Hall of Fame and was chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors on February 3, 2008. Galis is widely regarded as one of Europe's greatest scorers ever to play the game, as well as one of the all-time greatest players in FIBA international basketball history. Galis played the point guard position during his college years at Seton Hall University, 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 Europe and Euroleague Basketball Company era games 1958 season–present), leading the competition in scoring eight times. In the premier European club scene, he reached the Euroleague Final Four on four occasions, three consecutive ones with Aris (1988, 1989, and 1990), and another one with Panathinaikos (1994). An eight-time Greek league champion, Galis is the league's all-time leading scorer in both career points scored and career scoring average, counting all league formats (since the 1963–64 season). 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 four times. Among his myriad accomplishments, he holds the EuroBasket record for highest career scoring average (31.2 points per game), and was the leading scorer of four EuroBasket tournaments in 1983, 1987, 1989, and 1991. In addition to that, he holds the FIBA World Cup record for highest career scoring average (33.5 points per game), as well as for most points ever scored in a single tournament, which he set at the 1986 FIBA World Cup. Following the stunning success of the EuroBasket title in 1987, he won the Mr. Europa Player of the Year and the Euroscar awards the same year. Nicknamed "Iron Man", "Nick The Greek", and "The Gangster", Galis is highly revered in Greece, where he is considered to be the greatest national athlete the country has ever seen. His years at Aris lifted Greek basketball from relative obscurity, to global power status, with Galis being the figure that eventually inspired thousands of Greeks to take up the game.
The child of a poor immigrant family from the Greek islands of Rhodes and Nisyros, Nick took up boxing in his early years, after his father, George Georgalis, who had 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 home with a new facial injury. As a result, he started playing basketball and attended Union Hill High School in Union City, New Jersey. After high school, Galis enrolled at Seton Hall University, where he would play college basketball as a member of the Seton Hall Pirates. 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 points per game) and Indiana State's Larry Bird (28.6 points per game), including a 48-point outburst against the University of Santa Clara. The same year, he also took part in the Pizza Hut All-American game alongside Bird and Vinnie Johnson. 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 signed with agent Bill Manon, who also managed Diana Ross. Manon did not have Galis work out with any NBA team. 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. Later, while playing in Greece, he would be offered NBA contracts by the Celtics and the New Jersey Nets. However, he turned the offers down, because at the time, and until 1989, FIBA did not have professional status, and consequently did not allow NBA players to compete at the national team level. Since playing for the Greek national team meant so much to him, 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 made the move across the Atlantic, and signed to play with Aris of Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1979. Panathinaikos and Olympiacos had also shown some interest in signing the newcomer, but it was Aris' interest that was the most persuasive. His move to the country helped Greek basketball reach heights never before imagined. In 1983, while playing in a game with the Greek national team against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Chapel Hill, Greece's shooting guard Galis, while being guarded by North Carolina's shooting guard Michael Jordan, scored 50 points during the game. He played in the 1986 FIBA World Championship, where he led all players in scoring average with 33.5 points per game. In that tournament, he had a 53-point outburst against the Panamanian national basketball team. Galis next led the Greek national basketball team to the EuroBasket 1987 gold medal. Averaging 37.0 points per game during the tournament, he was named the MVP of the tournament, after scoring 40 points in the final against the Soviet Union national basketball team and its legendary player, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, for a 103-101 victory. Galis also led Greece to the second place at the EuroBasket 1989, averaging 35.6 points per game. Galis is most remembered from that tournament, for a stunning effort against the Soviet team led by Marčiulionis, and its other star player, Arvydas Sabonis, in the semifinal game. He scored 45 out of his team's 81 total points in a dramatic, last-gasp 81-80 victory. The Greek team then settled for a second-place finish, after losing against the ever-dominant Yugoslavian national basketball team in the tournament's final.
Averaging more than 30 points per game every season, Galis was the indisputable leader of Aris Thessaloniki. Playing alongside other great players at Aris such as Panagiotis Giannakis and Slobodan Subotić (who was known in Greece as Lefteris Soumpotits), Galis won 8 Greek League championships (7 of them consecutively, and 3 undefeated, in the years 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991), 6 Greek Cups (4 of them consecutively, in the years 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1992), and led Aris to 3 consecutive appearances at the European Champions' Cup Final Four ('88, '89, and '90). In the one disappointment of an otherwise glittering career with Aris, all three European Champions' Cup appearances ended in defeat in the semifinals, thus depriving Galis of the opportunity to shine all the way on Europe's biggest club, stage at the European Champions' Cup Finals. The team's performances and general standard of play, however, won the heart of most every basketball fan in Greece. Indeed, cinemas and theaters would often reduce their admission prices on Thursday evenings, when Aris was playing, and the entire country settled down to watch them on television. After a disappointing season in 1991–92, Galis was forced to leave Aris. The new management of the team, and the fact that the club was in decay, were the main causes for his departure. Galis, who adored Thessaloniki, had insisted on remaining in the club and playing for the team, as he believed that he still had a lot to offer. Instead of that, Galis moved to Athens in the summer of 1992, to play with Panathinaikos, and he was the player who then led the "Greens" to a club rebirth, after it had suffered through a long drought period, during which the historical team remained without titles. The previous season (1991–92) had been particularly disappointing for the club, with the team finishing eighth in the Greek league. As the team's captain, Galis inspired the young players of Panathinaikos, such as Fragiskos Alvertis and Nikos Oikonomou, and gradually brought back hope to the team's fans. So much so, as to the point that the club's then home arena, Glyfada Indoor Hall, was always overcrowded. In that season (1992–93), Panathinaikos finished second in the Greek league, and won the Greek Cup, which was the seventh Greek Cup title for Galis. The following season (1993–94), Galis was the FIBA European League Top Scorer (averaging 23.8 points per game in 21 games) and passer (4.7 assists per game, in 21 games). In the decisive game 3 of the Euroleague quarterfinals, against the reigning FIBA European League champions, Limoges, Galis truly led Panathinaikos into a new club era, with their qualification to the 1994 FIBA European League Final Four, by scoring 30 points on 75% field goal shooting in the game. The "Greens" eventually finished in 3rd place in the FIBA European League that season, after losing in the semifinal, but it was still a success they had never reached before. Galis scored 30 points in the third place game against FC Barcelona, leading all scorers in the game. In his third season in Panthinaikos (1994–95), Galis teamed up with Panagiotis Giannakis and Žarko Paspalj, to make a strong effort to win the FIBA European League. Galis was the player who led Panathinaikos to the Top 16 group, as he prevented the elimination of Panathinaikos by Budivelnik Kiev, with a team-high 23 points in the decisive second-leg victory. He was also the leader of the team in the Greek Cup win against Olympiacos, at Sporting Sports Arena. But Galis' career controversially ended on October 18, 1994, a few games after the start of the Greek League 1994–95 season. Kostas Politis, Panathinaikos' coach at the time, chose not to include Galis in the starting line-up of a Greek League game against Ambelokipi. Galis left the court, and never again returned to action. His last game in professional basketball, was as a player of Panathinaikos, in a game against AO Dafni, on October 12, 1994. In the game, Galis scored 8 points in 35 minutes of playing time, as his team won in a blowout, 82-60.
Since his official retirement on September 29, 1995, and up until early 2006, Galis was the owner of a summer basketball camp in Chalkidiki, Greece. The basketball camp is listed at the Athens Stock Exchange. As a token of appreciation for his contribution to Greek sport, Galis was chosen to be the first torch bearer in the final round of the Olympic Flame, for the Athens 2004 Olympics. Galis entered the stadium at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony, and set off the procession of the flame to the altar. In September 2007, Galis was elected as a member of the first class of the FIBA Hall of Fame, which includes the best basketball players in the history of the game internationally. Galis was inducted as a player. Bill Russell of the famous Boston Celtics dynasty was another one of the 16 inaugural player inductees. Galis is also a member of the Eurobasket.com website's Greek Basketball Hall of Fame, inducted as a player. Galis is married to Eleni Panagiotou, and he has one daughter, named Stella. In May 2013, Aris renamed their home arena to Nick Galis Hall, and organized a celebration of Galis's life and career, which was attended by many of his teammates and opponents from the 1980s and 1990s. Attendees included Greek legends such as the majority of the 1987 EuroBasket winning team, as well as international stars who played against Galis, such as Dino Radja, Jordi Villacampa, and Doron Jamchi.
Quotes about Galis
"If I'm the devil's son, then Galis is the devil himself.", Dražen Petrović
"If Galis wants to score, he will score no matter who's defending him.", Arvydas Sabonis
"I never thought that there was such a good offensive player in Europe, and especially in Greece.", Michael Jordan
"Although Drazen (i.e. Petrović) is my brother, for the best athlete of 1987, I voted for Galis."', Aco Petrović
"I had given specific instructions on how to defend against the other 4 players. As for Nikos, we just had to sit down and pray!", Vojcek Kricovski, CSKA Moscow coach.
"There is only one way I can think of to stop Nikos from scoring! Lock him up in the hotel!", Roud Harevain, Maccabi Tel-Aviv head coach. "I wish if I was Galis "
Awards and accomplishments
Galis won numerous titles and awards during his career and had many memorable single game performances. The following are some of them:
Haggerty Award (New York Metro Area Player of the Year): 1979
Member of the Seton Hall Athletic Hall of Fame: 1991
8 Greek League Championships: 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
7 Greek Cups: 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993
(In total, he won 15 trophies in his pro club career as a player)
Personal awards and achievements
11x Greek League Top Scorer: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
8x Euroleague Top Scorer: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994
Mediterranean Player of the Year: 1987
Euroscar European Player of the Year: 1987
Mr. Europa European Player of the Year: 1987
World's 10th Best Athlete (a vote that included all sports and all countries): 1987
5x Greek League MVP: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992
5× Greek League Finals MVP: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
5x Greek Cup Finals Top Scorer: 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993
4x Greek League Assist Leader: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
Euroleague Assist Leader: 1994
Greek Cup all-time scoring leader: 1,935 points (35.2 ppg)
Greek League (only if counting all league formats) all-time scoring leader: 12,849 points (33.5 ppg)
Euroleague final stage all-time scoring leader: over 1,000 points
Euroleague: all-time scoring leader (only counting all league formats)
He was named one of FIBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1991.
Member of the Eurobasket.com website's Greek Hall of Fame
Member of the FIBA Hall of Fame: 2007
50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors: 2008
Along with Panagiotis Giannakis, he led Aris Thessaloniki to an 80-game winning streak in the 1980s.
His personal scoring record in one game was 63 points, achieved in a Greek League game in 1981 (Aris Thessaloniki vs. Ionikos Nikaias). However, in the same game, Ionikos' superstar, Panagiotis Giannakis, who would later go on to become Galis' teammate on Aris, scored 73 points.
In 1981, he also had a 61-point game against Iraklis Thessaloniki.
Also in 1981, he accomplished his career scoring high in a European continental competition, as he scored 57 points against Pallacanestro Venezia, during the 1981 Korać Cup.
His high scoring game in the Greek Cup was 57 points against Panellinios Athens, in the 1987 cup final.
Also in 1987, he scored his career high in points in the old FIBA Champions' Cup (now called the Euroleague), as he scored 50 points in a game against Tracer Milano.
He also holds 4 of the top 15 all-time individual scoring games in the Euroleague's modern record era (since 1991–92).
He scored 55 or more points in a game 10 times in his professional club career, while playing with Aris Thessaloniki and Panathinaikos Athens.
In 1990, in a Saporta Cup game versus Korihait Uusikaupunki, he dished out FIBA 23 assists.
In 1993, while playing with Panathinaikos Athens, in a revenge game against his former team Aris Thessaloniki, he had a game for the ages. Galis shot 13/13 from the field and recorded 19 FIBA assists in the game.
Greek National Team
In 169 FIBA rules games played with the Greek national basketball team, he averaged 30.6 points per game.
Galis was the top scorer in every major European and world international competition that he participated in from 1983 onwards, the EuroBasket 1983, the 1986 FIBA World Championship, the EuroBasket 1987, the EuroBasket 1989, and the EuroBasket 1991.
At the 1986 FIBA World Championship, he scored 53 points in a game against the Panamanian national basketball team.
In the EuroBasket 1987 final, he scored 40 points against the Soviet Union national basketball team.
In the EuroBasket 1989 semifinal, he scored 45 points against the Soviet Union national basketball team.
1980 Balkan Games: Gold
1986 Balkan Games: Gold
1986 FIBA World Championship Top Scorer: 1986 (33.5 ppg)
EuroBasket 1983: All-Tournament Team
EuroBasket 1987: Gold
EuroBasket 1987: All-Tournament Team
EuroBasket 1987: Most Valuable Player
EuroBasket 1989: Silver
EuroBasket 1989: All-Tournament Team
EuroBasket 1991: All-Tournament Team
4x EuroBasket Top Scorer: 1983 (33.3 ppg), 1987 (37.0 ppg), 1989 (35.6 ppg), 1991 (32.4 ppg)
Greek National Basketball Team 2nd all-time scoring leader: 5,163 points (30.6 ppg)