With the world’s most elite sporting competition buried deep in the history of Ancient Greece it’s little surprise that sports still form a big part of their modern day lives.
Who though are the best Greek athletes of all time? Here we’ll count down the top five.
Number 5. Stefanos Tsitsipas (tennis)
Tsitsipas might only be 22 years old but already he has managed to rank higher in the ATP World Rankings than any other Greek player has managed in history. To achieve such a thing is no mean feat and the fact the youngster already has five titles to his name is a big part of the reason he rises through the ranks so quickly.
Whether or not Tsitsipas moves higher up this list will depend on what sort of longevity he can achieve in his career. If he can maintain his power whilst working out some of the unforced errors, he makes then you can expect to see his win ratio of 64% increase and, who knows, a grand slam could even be on the cards.
Number 4. Kyriakos Rambidis (basketball)
The name Kyriakos Rambidis might not mean much to our non-Greek readers. Perhaps Kurt Rambis will mean more. The Greek/American played in the NBA for 14 seasons where he won four NBA Championships with the LA Lakers. So, his name wouldn’t be too far-fatched if this article was about the most underrated NBA players ever.
His career on the West Coast might not read phenomenally on a stats front but Rambis surpassed expectations. He was just a third-round draft pick after all. The fact he defied the odds means he’s considered a legend amongst the Lakers fans.
He did have spells as a player away from Los Angeles, but nothing will compare to his time as part of the ‘showtime’ team. Since calling it a day, he’s cemented his place in NBA folklore by helping the Lakers to a further five NBA titles; three as assistant coach and two as an executive.
Number 3. Pyrros Dimas (weightlifting)
We touched on the relationship between Greece and the Olympic Games in our introduction to this article. Well, if one name from modern day athletics represents that past it’s probably the Albanian born Dimas. Between 1992 and 2004 the 5’8 weightlifter represented Greece at the Olympics four times; each one was a roaring success.
Dimas’ last appearance, in 2004, saw him fight through the pain of injury to take home the bronze. The three prior to that though saw him win Gold each time with the 1996 Games in Atlanta seeing him set a World Record courtesy of a combined lift of 392.5kg. On top of that, he scooped Gold in one European Championship and at three World Championships. It is an absolutely incredible haul for one man to boast.
Number 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (basketball)
Giannis Antetokounmpo had his basketballing education in Greece with Filathlitikos; since then he’s been plying his trade in the US after joining the Milwaukee Bucks as a first round draft pick in 2013. Seven seasons have passed since then and he’s made quite the impression on the NBA. He made the All-Rookie second team in 2014 before showing steady and consistent improvement each year from then.
In 2017, Antetokounmpo was voted the Most Improved Player in the NBA and he’s featured in every All-Star game since then.
That’s not all though, he’s also won back-to-back league MVP awards across the last two campaigns; that’s something that has been done by very few players with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan just two of the names Antetokounmpo shares company with.
The NBA odds have him in the running for a hat-trick too. Regardless, all that is missing from his career is some team silverware.
Number 1. Theodoros Zagorakis (football)
Was Zagorakis the most technically gifted footballer in the world? No. He wasn’t even the most skilful in Greece.
Zagorakis had the heart of a champion, a will to win and leadership qualities that made everyone around him better.
The tenacious midfielder spent the majority of his career in his homeland, but he also had spells in Serie A and the Premier League; the latter yielded a League Cup medal with Leicester City.
Of course, Zagorakis’ crowing year came in 2004. Not only did he lead Greece to their surprise European Championship win but he was named player of the tournament, man of the match in the final against a Portugal side featuring Deco, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo and, to top it all off, he finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or voting.
The year he had in 2004 is near untouchable as far as Greek athletes are concerned and Zagorakis’ career in general will take some eclipsing too.
There you have it, the best Greek athletes of all time. Who did we miss?