NEW YORK – They may not all have been sports fans, but the Hellenes who attended the reception at the Greek Consulate in New York in honor of Greek players in the NBA were brimming with pride on February 12.
The event was presented by the Hellenic Basketball Federation and Yanna Darilis, President of New Greek TV (NGTV) was the emcee and event organizer.
Amb. George Iliopoulos, the Consul General of Greece, told The National Herald, “We are happily hosting this event. Basketball is a sport that every Greek has dear to his heart, not only because we now have a long tradition, but because they excel at it.”
The honorees included Kostas Papanikolaou, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes. Papanikolaou and Antetokounmpo were present in New York because they were selected for the NBA All Star Game.
Koufos and Calathes had to remain with their teams and could not travel to New York but Antetokounmpo was forced to miss the event at the last moment because of a previously unscheduled practice.
Each will receive a plaque, however. Papanikolaou, who was given his by Matina Kolokotronis, President for Business Operations of the Sacramento Kings, said
“This plaque is the least I take with me form here. I can feel only joy and strong emotions…It’s a rare opportunity for us to find ourselves in a place with so many Greeks. Maybe it does not seem important for some, but it is very big thing for us to receive this love.”
The guests were also thrilled at the chance to meet the legends of international Greek basketball like Panagiotis Fasoulas, Nikos Katsikaris, Nikos Philippou and the former star of PAOK and the Sacramento Kings, Peja Stojakovic.
Honorary plaques were also presented to Amb. Iliopoulos, to the Archdiocese of America for operating Greek-American youth basketball leagues – it was received by Stavros Papagermanos, the Archdiocese’s press officer – and to NGTV, received by Darilis, for its contribution to the event.
Also present were Fox NEWS star anchors Ernie Anastos and Nicole Petalides, representatives of the New York fan clubs of Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, Brooklyn Nets executive, Abner Neufeld, and Greek-American businessmen and journalists from Greece, the diaspora and the American news media.
Fasoulas was very satisfied with the event. He told TNH, “This is an important night because among the elements of contemporary Greek history is the story of Greek basketball…Greek basketball has been a mark of excellence in Greece for many years.”
He added, “we are thrilled to have four men in the NBA…And we hope that the 40-50 Greeks who play basketball on scholarship at American universities will also make their way to the NBA.”
He is also part of a not-for-profit organization that will provide those student athletes with advice and guidance on all matters of importance to them in the United States.
“They come to a foreign country at the age of 17 or 18 and often they don’t know who to turn to for assistance. I experience that myself and as father and I am concerned about my own daughter who will attend Boston College on scholarship next year,” Fasoulas said.
Gus Costalas, the CFO of Lenox Hill Hospital, was pleased to attend and express his appreciation for “the Consulate, which has done a great job working with Lenox Hill…and we are here to support this wonderful event, which nog only makes me proud as a Greek-American but is also great for our presence here in this country.”
“I am proud Greek-American her to celebrate other Greeks and tonight shows the breadth of the success the Greeks have in every industry and every place,” she said, adding that she is a basketball fan. “I also played for GOYA and the Maids of Athena when I was in college. My kids also play and this is the one event they came to without complaints.”
Coach Kostas Katsikaris told TNH “This is my first time in New York but it is also special for me to meet and talk to Greeks who have been born and raised in America…and basketball is one of the things that connects us. Greek basketball has brought joy to people all over the world. Tonight’s event is a beautiful thing and I am glad to be here.”