Greece 101 — USA 95

by Kieran Healy on September 1, 2006

Somewhere in Athens, the Greek counterpart of “Bjørge Lillelien”:ørge_Lillelien is shouting into a radio mike, “Thomas Jefferson, William Hearst, Herbert Hoover, Warren Harding, Muhammad Ali, Paris Hilton — we have beaten them all! We have beaten them all! George Bush can you hear me? … Your boys “took a hell of a beating!”:

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And now for something completely different at Σπιτάκι
09.01.06 at 2:36 pm



otto 09.01.06 at 8:26 am

Paris Hilton as Lady Diana, I like it.


Lukas 09.01.06 at 8:43 am



chris y 09.01.06 at 9:04 am

Sorry, inescapable proxy schadenfreude.


Josh 09.01.06 at 9:25 am

I spent a year in Greece out of five year living in Europe in the 1990’s.

In many wa’s it is a crazy country. but out of everywhere I have been I can say emphatically that the Greeks have more heart than any other Europeans.

I was doing some work on the Italian invasion and the Holocaust pepetrated against the Jews of Greece by the Bulgarians and the Germans. The Geeks beat the daylights out of an Italian military ten times their size giving the allies the very first victory of World War Two (this is when the US was on the sidelines and USSR was still siding with the Nazis).

The modern Greeks are the heirs of the ancient Greeks and really the best things about today’s world are derived from Greece and Hellenism.

Kudo’s to the Greeks, being an underdog never was a handicap for them.


SomeCallMeTim 09.01.06 at 9:26 am

Don’t make us make you leave, Irish. Have the decency to wait until the body is cold.


Jacob Christensen 09.01.06 at 9:36 am

The Norwegians always had special verbal powers.

When the Kim Vilfort scored the second goal in Denmark’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 1992 European Championship Final, all the commentator on Danish television could say was:


We’re still trying to figure out what he meant by that remark.

The Swedes don’t win important matches and nobody understands a word of what the Finns say.


Cryptic Ned 09.01.06 at 9:56 am


I have a shirt celebrating the Welsh victory over Italy in qualifying for Euro 2004, and it says something like “Verdi! Da Vinci! Michelangelo! Dante! Julius Caesar! Mr. Mussolini! Your boys got one hell of a beating! Your boys got one heeeellllll of a beating!”

I liked it better when I didn’t know it was an imitation of something else.


A-ro 09.01.06 at 9:56 am

Congrats to Greece!

It has been clear for a while: the U.S. still has the most talent (if one judges by the international market for bascketball talent at the club team level), but not by enough to overcome the small sample size procedure used to determine a champion. As any superior team knows, you have to be both good and lucky to win it all in a given year. The Dream Team was 3 orders of magnitude above the competition, so this never came up. Now the US may still be above everyone in talent, but will have to settle for being how Brazil is in soccer–having a great shot to win it all when they take things seriously and the planets allign right.

(It certainly would help if all of our very best players [do you hear me Mr. Garnett!?!] would play on the damn national team.)


Lukas 09.01.06 at 10:35 am

The comparison with Brazil is not apt. The USA national team doesn’t play at a very high level as a _team_, period. And I’m not sure the NBA or the players are ready to make the effort to get us there. They still see the Worlds/Olympics as the off-season.


Lukas 09.01.06 at 10:39 am

Sorry, had to respond to this also:

(It certainly would help if all of our very best players [do you hear me Mr. Garnett] would play on the damn national team.)

I repeat: the US is not losing for lack of talented individuals.

What I’m mostly worried about is that the players and the league will beg off with “well it’s a different game over there”, which I’m disappointed to see freedarko has already started in on.

Enjoy your victory, Greece, and good luck.


Kevin 09.01.06 at 12:29 pm


They don’t play well as a team? They’ve just won 12 straight games by double digits, averaging 27 points a victory during FIBA and more than that in the exhibitions. A loss to the Euro champion by 6 after a poor day at the charity stripe isn’t particularly humiliating.

In 04, when the US lost to teams like Puerto Rico, it’s fair to say they weren’t playing as a team. But even after this victory, I don’t think you’ll find many commentators, particularly outside the US, who would spot the US points in a matchup against anybody.

One interesting thing I’ve seen this year is that there are now a few NBA level talents making enough overseas that they aren’t coming to play stateside; the Greek at CSKA Moscow and Navarro at Barcelona are good examples. As a Celtic fan, I wouldn’t mind the Celts bringing over Baby Shaq/Sophocles, as he certainly looked good today and the Celts drafted him a few years back when he was 18.


astrongmaybe 09.01.06 at 12:43 pm

Shouldn’t it be more like: “Ulysses S. Grant, William Hearst, Franklin Roosevelt, Alexander Haig, John F. Kennedy, Lucille Ball [who in hell would be the equivalent of Henry Cooper as decent public clown? Phil Silvers? …], John F. Kennedy [again]…, your boys, etc…”
Bravo Greece!


andrew l. 09.01.06 at 2:01 pm

This group of USA player really did play well together as a team. Several players who could have been big egos — LeBron, Carmello, D. Wade, Elton Brand, Kirk Hinrich, — were willing to sacrifice starter positions and share the ball. Look at the second half of most of their games.

Re: a-ro’s comments. You’re absolutely right. The 100,000 best basketball players in the U.S. could beat the 10,000 best players anywhere else in the world. When it comes down to some subset of the 50 best players in each country, it can often be a question of luck.


mpowell 09.01.06 at 2:13 pm

Its hard to criticize NBA players for not playing in the international competition. If you’re Kevin Garnett, that could take years off your career and cost you $30-50 million dollars. I know these guys are wealthy, but that’s still a lot of money. People downplay the injury concerns and fatigue factor of offseason play, but it is actually very serious for a pro player. That recovery time is critical to a player’s longevity.


derek 09.01.06 at 2:26 pm

who in hell would be the equivalent of Henry Cooper as decent public clown? Phil Silvers?

Are you getting Henry Cooper mixed up with Tommy Cooper? ‘Enery was a heavyweight boxer.


astrongmaybe 09.01.06 at 2:44 pm

Derek – no, but I can see why you’d think so. After I posted that I suddenly thought that I could be misconstrued on that score, but clarifying just seemed too much labor. I was just trying to come up with a 50s/60s American equivalent for a “public figure who cheerfully exposed their weaknesses – consciously or unconsciously – for general merriment.” American sports doesn’t really (or at least, I couldn’t think of any) suffer gormless, harmless, loveable losers gladly, so I couldn’t think of someone from that sphere. Having described Our ‘Enery as such, though, LB and PS are both way off the mark. Oooof.

Tommy Cooper was a fine man, all the same. He wore a fez and made deadpan, daft jokes like these:


Cryptic Ned 09.01.06 at 3:04 pm

A lovable loser from the world of sports, who was quick with a quip about what a loser he was? Maybe Bob Uecker.


pg 09.01.06 at 3:27 pm

It’s worth mentioning that this was not a total fluke (unlike Euro 04 in football) by Greece. Greece has become one of the strongest basketball teams in Europe since winning the European championship in 86, which they won again in 04.

And the Greek teams Panathinaikos and Olympiakos have been dominating the European cup/Euroleague from the early 90s.


gordon 09.01.06 at 3:37 pm

Hey,hate to admit it but greek team rocks.Anyway,some info about thiz babyShaq guy??HE iZ da bomb like Hiroshima.


Delicious Pundit 09.01.06 at 5:01 pm

The Mighty MJD had the best wrapup of things, I thought:

This had nothing to do with poor attitudes, or lack of effort, or lack of team unity… none of those things that get unfairly applied to NBA players. The fact of the matter is that the Greeks play with a continuity and intelligence that takes literally years for a team to develop, and that they had better fundamentals. And it was just proven, beyond any doubt, that you can’t put an all-star team together and make up for that difference, no matter how talented those all-stars are, in three or four weeks. You just can’t.


mijnheer 09.01.06 at 8:45 pm

Basketball: a game invented by a Canadian and played best by Europeans, Argentinians, and Steve Nash.


Randy Paul 09.02.06 at 10:04 am

andrew l.

If you shoot 59% from the free throw line and 32% from 3 point range against a team that shoots 70% from the field in the last three quarters you deserve to lose.

Unfortunately too many American basketball players don’t play the fundamentals well. Through Tuesday’s stats not one US player was in the top 10 in free throw percentage for this competition.

Its hard to criticize NBA players for not playing in the international competition. If you’re Kevin Garnett, that could take years off your career and cost you $30-50 million dollars.

Oh please. Major professional soccer players in Europe like Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and numerous others play regular league games, League Cup games as well as Champions League or UEFA Cup games from August to May and consider it an honor to play for their national team.


Andrew 09.03.06 at 9:16 am

Maybe the better team won on the day?

The English rugby team draws from a player base at least ten times larger than the Australian and New Zealand teams, and is routinely thumped by either (with the early part of this decade an honorable exception). Player base is no measure of national team strength.

Neither is tradition. Again taking rugby union as an example, the Welsh and South Africans have learned this the hard way.

No team is entitled to dominate a sport. You have to have good players, good tactics and strategy, respect your opposition and play to your strengths and their weaknesses. It also helps if you’re lucky (how the ball bounces off the rim, or for rugby and football, off the ground).

Given all this, a healthy dose of humility helps you to enjoy the highs and move positively and gracefully through the inevitable lows. Kipling knew what he was on about.


Jason Stanley 09.04.06 at 12:50 pm

“Maybe the better team won the day”

Hah. Three points: (1) The Greeks were playing over their heads, as the final demonstrated. (2) The one-and-done format isn’t a way to determine the best team, as those of us who remember Villanova and N.C. State in the 1980s can attest. (3) And once Kobe joins this team in 2008, it will be lights out for the rest of the world.

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