Kostas Sloukas, the serial winner. Source: Luca Sgamellotti/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Kostas Sloukas, the serial winner. Source: Luca Sgamellotti/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Kostas Sloukas in the EuroLeague’s GOAT Conversation

Basketball OlyBet 18.06.2024

When we think about the best players in EuroLeague history, names like Dimitrios Diamantidis, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Vassilis Spanoulis come to mind. However, Mike James, the top scorer in the history of Europe’s premier club competition, believes that Kostas Sloukas should also be part of this conversation, and my God, is he right.

This year, Sloukas helped Panathinaikos Athens win the EuroLeague championship for the first time in 13 years and was named the Final Four MVP. He meets the GOAT criteria in terms of his resume, statistics, and X-factor.

The 34-year-old from the basketball city of Thessaloniki is now a four-time EuroLeague champion, having lifted the coveted trophy with three different clubs. Whether winning with Olympiacos, Fenerbahce Istanbul, or Panathinaikos, there were no big surprises, but that doesn’t make his achievements any less significant.

Yes, four players have more EuroLeague titles than Sloukas, but excluding Panathinaikos legend Fragiskos Alvertis, none of them have reached the pinnacle of the EuroLeague in the 21st century.

Numbers and that special something

Sloukas has played in 387 EuroLeague games, and he is sure to rise to fourth place next season, as Žalgiris Kaunas’ current general manager Paulius Jankunas is just five games ahead of him. With 3,697 points, Sloukas ranks eighth in scoring and third in assists with 1,700.

Considering that Sloukas was excellent this season and has two more years left on his contract with Panathinaikos, there are no signs that his great career will end in the very near future or that his statistics will stagnate anytime soon. Moreover, in modern professional sports, we increasingly see older athletes playing at a high level, and why should Sloukas be an exception?

Great players are distinguished not just by impressive statistics and a full trophy cabinet. They have that special something, that X-factor, which elevates them above their peers in discussions about the greatest of all time.

For example, Frenchman Thomas Heurtel is in the top ten for EuroLeague assists and fourth in assists per game, but no one speaks of him as one of the league’s best point guards of all time because, while he might tick the box in terms of statistics, he hasn’t won the EuroLeague nor does he have that X-factor.

Sloukas has all three elements needed to be considered among the greatest. He is a natural leader with ice in his veins. He has repeatedly decided games and shone when his team needed him the most.

Take this year’s final, for instance. Sloukas scored 24 points against Real Madrid, making all his field goal attempts. He also hit two crucial shots in the middle of the fourth quarter that swung the momentum back to Panathinaikos.

Or take this season’s quarter-final series against Maccabi Tel Aviv. After losing the first home game, Panathinaikos desperately needed a win, and Sloukas scored 29 points in the second game, leading his team to a 95-79 victory.

Or take last season’s quarter-final series against Fenerbahce. In the third game, he hit a last-second game-winning shot, and in the decisive fifth game, he scored 22 points against his former club, helping Olympiacos reach the Final Four.

Who is the greatest in EuroLeague history?

In the NBA, there is a consensus that the greatest players are either Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Neither has the most championship rings, as Bill Russell’s 11 titles will likely never be surpassed, but Russell played in the 1950s and ’60s, while Jordan and James are much more modern players whose careers and greatness can be much more easily analyzed.

It’s important to note that the NBA is much more statistically oriented than the EuroLeague, making it easier to highlight players like Jordan and James. In the EuroLeague, however, there are no players who stand head and shoulders above the rest in various metrics.

The league has seen many great players, some of whom have left an indelible mark and can be considered among the best. However, finding a consensus that a particular player or two are definitively at the top of the all-time rankings is nearly impossible. This is not due to a lack of choices but because the legends are relatively equal.

One player could have changed all that: Luka Dončić. The Slovenian, who debuted in the EuroLeague with Real at 16, spent three seasons in Europe’s top league before moving to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

While Dončić’s first EuroLeague season was very good for someone so young, it was not extraordinary in the grand scheme. However, his importance grew, and in his third season, he led Real to a title, winning both the regular season and Final Four MVP awards.

Had Dončić stayed in the EuroLeague, it would be easy to bet that he would have broken as many records as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in football, as he is an extraordinary player with all the makings to have become the EuroLeague’s undisputed best ever.

But that’s okay. While Dončić may not reach the level of James or Jordan, he can still become the greatest European to ever play in the NBA. And that’s no small feat!


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