The future of European basketball had the chance to learn life-long lessons from one of the game’s past greats as the players from the 2016 EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals met Theo Papaloukas as part of the EB ANGT Players Educational Session. The Euroleague Basketball Legend spoke to the youngsters about how to remain in the game for many years, ways to prepare for the game and the importance of loving the game.
“I don’t know if I have helped them, but I told them what I think is really the truth, and if someone understands that, then maybe they can save some time in his career,” two-time Euroleague champion Papaloukas said.
“If I can make it, you can make it,” the 39-year-old Papaloukas told the players, referring to the start of his basketball career with a team in the fourth division in the Athens league. “You have to eat well and sleep well. Protect your body… Be a good player and a good person, be somebody players want to have on their team.”
Papaloukas was asked by one of the players if he had pregame rituals and he responded: “I lived out the game in my mind before the game. What my opponent likes to do. Playing it out already helped me to take the right decisions during the game.”
The number one thing, Papaloukas said, was to love the game, adding: “You have to do what you love. The more you love basketball, the bigger your success will be.”
Papaloukas’s many achievements in a brilliant career included becoming a EuroBasket champion, Euroleague MVP, Euroleague Final Four MVP and one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors. That success and the wisdom he gleamed with it ensured that Papaloukas’s advice would be well received by the future stars.
“It was good. He played my position so I loved seeing him. I loved watching him. He won so many great games,” said U18 INSEP Paris’s Bathiste Tchouaffe. “He talked about what you need to do to prepare for basketball games ahead of time. That was good.”
U18 ALBA Berlin’s Rijad Avdic also liked hearing about how Papaloukas prepared for games, and how important relaxing is. “It’s a big honor because he’s one of the greats and you can really learn a lot about him and how he played basketball,” Avdic said.
Francois Naude, the Senior Manager Sports Marketing Horizontal Concepts for adidas, also addressed the players about the adidas brand and the athletes’ place in it. He also said the choice to bring in a legend like Papaloukas to talk to the players was an easy one. “adidas is a proud partner of Euroleague so through that we want to engage in the youth. This is a key platform and a really good platform for us to do that. We’re an older brand in the sporting world and to bring in a legend like Papaloukas, he was the kind of story we like to tell,” said Naude.
He also believes the players really paid attention to what Papaloukas said. “Kids generally when they’re younger dream big, and it’s inspirational for them to hear somebody who has been there and done that. It makes them think that their dreams can become a reality,” Naude said. “Having a legend speak to them, they know he was once in their shoes and now 20 years later he’s achieved everything they could possibly want to achieve in their lifetime. It reaffirms that their dreams can come true.”
The other speaker was Alex Ferrer Kristjansson, Brand and Communication Director for Euroleague Basketball, who talked to the players about the role of players. “Play Basketball”, “Inspire People” and “Grow Brands” are the three pillars, he said. “You need a lot of factors to get to the highest level and then to stay there,” said Ferrer.
He also discussed the players being aware of their presence to the outside world, including on social media. “All of these eyes will be on you and it’s important you act appropriately,” he added.