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Spanoulis played such a formative role in the basketball development of the league’s next big thing that a giddy Doncic once bothered his hero during the fourth quarter of a game with a peculiar request: He wanted to make sure he could get his uniform afterward. Giannis Antetokounmpo can relate to that starstruck feeling. He grew up in Greece. So he grew up with Spanoulis. The player who signed the richest deal in basketball history recently beamed as Spanoulis signed a jersey for him. “He’s like the Kobe or Jordan of Europe,” Antetokounmpo said.
The only thing memorable about his stint with the Rockets was how unmemorable it was. His spirit was lost in translation. He clashed with coaches as he barely played and scored most of his meager 2.7 points per game in garbage time. And he fled back to Europe as quickly as he could. That one year left such a sour aftertaste that Spanoulis is known among NBA executives for telling other players not to come over. “Wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “But it’s OK. Sometimes things don’t work. Maybe it’s better that I went back and made this career.”
“I grew up with Michael Jordan,” Spanoulis said. “So this was my favorite player.” Now he sees basketball from a different perspective. He admires Doncic as one of a kind. “I wish him to be one of the best that ever played,” Spanoulis said. He envies Antetokounmpo’s drive. “I wish him very soon to win a championship,” Spanoulis said. And it turns out he’s not their only fan in the Spanoulis household. “Also my kids,” he said.