A note from Nikos Varlas, Publishing Manager of Euroleague's Global Official Partner, Eurohoops.net
After interviewing – and more importantly getting to know – Ekpe, he asked me to write for his blog mine and Giannis story.
It was a pretty interesting challenge, since one of the rules of journalism is to never write in first person and/or about yourself. That's why I will write about my “child”. Eurohoops was blessed to have many fathers and I am one of them. It was an idea that came through necessity. And I don't mean the infamous Greek crisis.
Greece has been for the past two decades one of the centers of European basketball and as journalists – believe it or not I am doing this job since 1996 – we learned many things about European and world basketball in general. If they were written only in Greek, very few would have the chance to read them.
That's why the first version of Eurohoops back in 2012 included a Greek and an English version. Aris (Barkas) came with the name and the concept, Lefteris (Moutis) had a mind for stats and analysis, Rigas (Dardalis) always had his eyes on the other side of the Atlantic and Niki (Bakouli) could write with a distinct personal style. It started with five quite experienced journalists and two languages. Today there are almost thirty of us and the versions are six with the Turkish being one of the most succesful.
Thanks to the dynamic duo of Bugra Uzar and Semih Tuna we made our first baby steps, but Eurohoops Turkey has grown. Mete Budak, Utkan Sahin, Murat Kose, Anil Can Sedef were added and our goal remains big. We want to become the best ever Turkish basketball site. Turkey and Istanbul is at this point the center of European ball, 2017 will be a year full of basketball in the country and we believe that so far both the sport and also Eurohoops Turkey have just scratched the surface of their potentials.
And after all, it's a small basketball world. Here I am, writing about a Turkish version of an international basketball site in the blog of a basketball star of nigerian origin, who happened to be the teammate of the Greek freak himself, Giannis Antetokounmpo, in the Bucks before becoming the fan favorite of Fenerbahce Istanbul. What are the odds of that?
Still if Giannis proved something is that you can do – almost – anything. We were lucky enough, being based in Athens, to meet him when he was 16 years old and already making a name for himself. It's easy to write it now, but there were enough people in Greece – and many more in the NBA – who believed back then that he could be an All Star.
The point in which Giannis surprised everyone is how fast he progressed from the Greek second division to being an NBA franchise player. What can be next for him? The goals are many but what's really interesting about Giannis is the fact that he is practically positionless, a 7-foot point guard - point forward and that may end up being his legacy.
Giannis is changing basketball by showing to everyone that the evolution of the sport will be athletes who can play any position and they have to be developed in such way, according to their abilities and their skill-set and not only according to their body.
They say that sports are a metaphor for life and Giannis is so versatile that he can be a metaphor for almost anything and anyone. So he can really be an example, we are more than happy to host his blog and we can't but follow his lead also in Eurohoops.
Thanks for hosting me Ekpe,
Check out this dope feature on me from EUROHOOPS.NET!!!
Ekpe Udoh talks to Eurohoops about everything! About Zoc, about the differences between the NBA and European basketball, about the fans, the young stars in the NBA, the game he would like to play again and whether the situation in Turkey scares him.
By Nikos Varlas/ email@example.com
Ekpe Udoh! In his first season in the EuroLeague he proved that an American with quality and experience in the NBA is capable of adapting very quickly to the different style of basketball in Europe and to the demands of a coach like Zeljko Obradovic!
In the summer, after a little drama, he signed a new two-year contract with the club from Istanbul with a very high salary figure and this year he remains one of Fener’s big guns in the team’s effort to go one step further and win their first EuroLeague trophy and the first ever for a Turkish club!
One of the best big men in the league and certainly the most effective defender and the big favorite to win the best defender award!
His ability to impact games through defense is amazing, he’s the best blocker in this year’s competition with 2.2 per game (44 blocks in total compared with the 35 of the next one in line, Alex Tyus) and he did the same thing in the derby against Olympiacos, reaching 5 blocks, in addition to the great individual defenses that are not reflected in the stats!
Ekpe Udoh spoke exclusively to Eurohoops about the differences between the NBA and European basketball on every level, how he felt about not getting the offers he was expecting from the NBA, whether he’s worried about what is going on in Turkey, which play he’d like to take another shot at in his career, the young stars of the NBA, and about Zeljko Obradovic and the fact that no player wants to be the reason he turns… red with anger!
– Ekpe, after a season and a half in Europe, can you tell me the biggest differences between the EuroLeague and the NBA in terms of the style of play, but also in terms of the atmosphere in the arenas?
“The fans here are on different level! They can only be compared perhaps to those in college basketball, or American football. It’s crazy! There are some enthusiastic crowds in the NBA, like those of the Warriors or the Thunder. But in Europe people are… crazy! Especially in Turkey and Greece, they know how to create an unbelievable atmosphere.
In terms of basketball, here defense is always much more important, there’s more movement without the ball and emphasis on details, which is something I like. Basketball, though, at the end of the day, is the same everywhere and I enjoy playing in Europe and in Fenerbahce.”
– After the season you had last year and the increase in the salary cap in the NBA, most of us expected you’d go back to the NBA. However, you stayed here with a new contract in Fener. How did this happen?
“I waited to look at all the offers and my prospects. I didn’t get the opportunities I was expecting from the NBA. So, I felt that what was best for me was to stay in Fener and give everything I’ve got in order to have an even more successful season. To win the EuroLeague trophy, which we got very close to doing last year.”
– Did it bother you at all that you didn’t get the offers you were expecting from the NBA, in a summer that many players moved from the EuroLeague to the USA and with such good contracts?
“It did bother me a little to tell you the truth but I didn’t dwell on that, I sought to do what was best for my career. I’m playing at the highest level, Fener is a great club and every season we play for every title there is. It’s a great situation and challenge for me.”
– You said before that you got very close to winning the European title. You were one defensive rebound away from doing so, essentially… Would you like to replay that moment and try to prevent Khryapa’s follow that took the final against CSKA into overtime?
“I’d say no, I wouldn’t choose that play, in the last seconds anything can happen in basketball! I’d choose to play the final all over again, in order not to let CSKA build up such a big lead. We spent a lot of energy to be able to get back in the game from such a big deficit. That’s what I’d like, to play again and not allow them to build such a big lead.”
– Some bad things have happened in Turkey lately. As they’ve happened in other places around the world, like in your home country in the USA, and elsewhere. When things like that happen, especially in Istanbul, are you worried, are you scared?
“Sometimes it makes me nervous. With the last incident that took place at the club, I was asleep at the time. My close ones were looking for me and they were worried because I wasn’t answering. When I woke up I saw their messages and I let them know I was okay. But I’ve never thought of leaving, it hasn’t affected me that much. I don’t think about it and I want to pass it over. All these things that are happening, with innocent people losing their lives around the world, are absolutely senseless, we all know that…”
– You watch the NBA. What are your predictions and to whom would you give the MVP title this year?
“Hard to say, it’s very likely that we’ll see the same teams go a long way. This season’s MVP title, I’d give that to Isaiah Thomas! Everything he’s done this year is unbelievable! He was traded by Sacramento and Phoenix and now look at what he’s doing with the Celtics! My second choice for this season would be James Harden who, as a playmaker, does everything for the Rockets and his team is having an excellent season.”
– We see many younger players causing a sensation and making noise in the NBA. Who do you think are the Next Best Things in the best league in the world?
“That’s true, there are many young players who shine! One of them is definitely my ex-teammate in the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s the first time we see a player of his size doing the things he does on the court. I’m also very impressed by Jokic as well. A very intelligent player. Minnesota’s Karl Towns is also impressive. As are Porzingis of the Knicks and Embiid of the Sixers.”
– I’d like you to pick out the biggest difference between Zeljko Obradovic and the coaches you had in your years in the NBA!
“The biggest difference is in how demanding and tough he is on the small details of the game, how much attention he pays to those. Every movement, every system has to be executed just the way he has designed it and wants it. In his way, he helps you get better and become more complete as a player.
If you’re a player who’s played in the NBA and now you’re working with Obradovic, you need balance in order to understand what he asks of you and constantly work on his demands. When something isn’t done the way he wants it, you can see he always turns red! And you never want, for any reason whatsoever, to be the reason the coach turns red in anger (laughs)!”
Really nice feature on where we play our home games by the Euroleague. Once you walk into this arena, you feel the electricity!!! I know the arena will be rocking tomorrow night. Can't Wait!!!!!
Last week, I was able to visit this amazing museum as part of my project. First and foremost, I was shocked to see how many soldiers guard this area. Never seen anything like this for a memorial site. Had a great time and was able to learn more about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk!!!