ARIS, the club of Thessaloniki which bears the name of Mars, the ancient Greek god of war
ARIS, the club which led Greek basketball to a new era and was admired by every single sports fan in the country
ARIS, the “Emperor” of Greek basketball and the best Greek team of the 20th century in Greece, at any sport
Aris was destined to be a champion in basketball, as in all sports, and there’s no better proof than the 21 major trophies won up to this day (10 Hellenic Championships, 8 Hellenic Cups, 3 European titles). Thus, the two stars which have been added on the upper part of Aris’s emblem -one star for every ten trophies.
Aris has had the privilege to be the “home” of some of the most influential personalities that Greek sport has ever known: Legendary players such as Nikos Galis, Panagiotis Giannakis, Phedon Mattheou or Haris Papageorgiou, as well as coaches like Yannis Ioannidis and Anestis Petalidis.
Here are the landmarks and the most important moments of Aris’s illustrious History:
1922: FOUNDATION OF THE BASKETBALL SECTION
Aris Sports Club was founded in 1914 and eight years later it was time for the basketball section to be born. Basketball was a new sport to Greek territory, where young people played it since 1919. In 1925, the local teams organized the yearly Thessaloniki Championships and the “yellows” started collecting trophies, since they won the titles five times in a row (from 1925-26 season to 1929-30 season), without a single defeat.
1930: GREEK CHAMPIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME
Meanwhile, since 1928, the National Greek Championships was held every year among the top teams from Thessaloniki, Athens and Piraeus. Aris placed 3rd in their first participation, in 1928, however two years later it was the moment to reach the top: On April 23th 1930, the “yellows” won H.A.N.TH. by a 32-22 score in the final, held in Thessaloniki, and they were proclaimed champions of Greece for the first time.
1955: START OF HAVING INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS
The post-war History of Aris was marked by the presence of Phedon Mattheou, who was the leader and the creator of both men and women’s basketball sections from scratch. Since the beginning of the 50s until the end of that decade, the club had owned their first home court -and also enjoyed international success: In 1955, Aris was invited to participate in the international tournament of Viareggio, Italy, where placed 2nd, after losing the final match against Red Star Belgrade by a short margin (48-46).
Three years later, in 1958, the “yellows” were invited to Italy once again and played in tournaments held in Messina and Palermo. They won a total of four trophies. The same year, they won the Yugoslavian champions Beogradski in Thessaloniki (61-57) and in 1959 they added another trophy in their collection, by winning Belgian side Antwerp (61-45) in the final game of the Liege international tournament.
Aris’s debut in an official European tournament was made in 1966-67 season, when they played against Maccabi Tel Aviv for the Cup Winners’ Cup. Since that same year, Aris was seated on Alexandrio Melathro, the club’s home court up to this day.
1979: CHAMPIONS AGAIN
After a long wait of 49 whole years, the “yellows” made their way to the top of Greek basketball. The Hellenic Championships Division A, which was held since 1964, used to be dominated by the Athens and Piraeus powerhouses until 1979, but then the big moment came: Under the guidance of their ex player, Yannis Ioannidis -who was making his debut as a coach- and thanks to the scoring ability of Haris Papageorgiou, Aris won the title with a 24 wins - 2 losses record.
1979: NIKOS GALIS, THE “GOD” FROM NEW JERSEY
A few months after the conquest of the Hellenic Championships, Aris fought once more against the mighty Athens clubs. This time, it all was about a 23-year-old Greek-American from New Jersey, who had been 3rd scorer of the year in the NCAA. His name was Nikos Galis...
Galis chose Aris as him team and he signed in October 1979. The debut of the all-time greatest Greek basketball player was made on December 2nd, 1979, against Iraklis. The match ended with victory for the “yellows” (79-78) and Galis scored 30 points, despite being nervous and missing quite a few shots.
1983: THE START OF THE GOLDEN ERA
With Yannis Ioannidis once again at the helm after a three-year absence and with Nikos Galis having established himself as the top scorer of the Hellenic Championships every year, Aris found their way back to the top in season 1982-83. The “yellows” remained unbeaten at home and this was the key to their success.
Next year (1983-84) Aris ended the Championships with 24 wins - 2 losses, sharing the top spot with Panathinaikos. The title was decided on a tie-break game, at Corfu, where the “yellows” lost 80-76. They also lost by 4 points in the Hellenic Cup final, against P.A.O.K. (74-70). Nevertheless, that season will also be remember for the historical win in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s arena, “Yad Eliau” (75-76), a result which not prevent the Greek team’s elimination, since they had lost by 6 (62-68) in Thessaloniki.
1985: CELEBRATING THE FIRST “DOUBLE”
In the summer of 1984, Aris signed Panagiotis Giannakis, by paying a 40 million drachmas fee to Ionikos Nikeas for the rights of the player who would prove to be a true legend of the Greek basketball.
The result came at once and Yannis Ioannidis’s team celebrated the first “double” in its history: Aris won the Championships with a record of 25 victories and only 1 defeat (84-82 loss to Panionios, after two overtimes) and also won the Hellenic Cup thanks to a 86-70 victory at the final against Panathinaikos.
The legend of the “Emperor” started to build up in Europe, too, as the team reached the semifinals of Korac Cup, eliminating opponents like Yugoslavian side Zadar and French Le Mans. However, on the eve of the first match against Italian side Ciaocrem Varese, Nikos Galis broke his wrist and was sidelined. Aris won 80-77 in Alexandrio Melathro -with Galis being a mere spectator on the bench- but lost 95-71 in the second leg, in Italy.
1988: FINAL FOUR IN GHENT
Aris, which dominated easily in domestic competitions and won consecutive Championships and Cups, had already extended its ambitions beyond that. The beginning of season 1986-87 was marked by the unbelievable 98-67 triumph against Italian side Tracer Milano, which suffered the heaviest defeat of their history. Although Tracer won by 34 points in the second leg and advanced to the Champions Cup’s next phase -and finally won the trophy- Aris’s performance was not to be forgotten.
The following season, 1987-88, the “yellows” were readier than ever before for the big leap in Europe. They qualified to the “top eight” group of the Champions Cup, shocked the Continent with their victory against Barcelona (88-89) in “Palau Blaugrana” and eventually made it to the Final Four of the competition, held in Ghent, Belgium.
Aris, which by then was a real phenomenon in Greek culture (all Greek households awaited to see Aris play every Thursday night and Alexandrio Melathro was packed at least 4 hours before each game), was accompanied by thousands of fans in Belgium. However, in the semifinal they lost to Tracer Milano (87-82) and two days later they were defeated once again, by Partizan Belgrade (105-93), in the 3rd place game.
1989: FINAL FOUR IN MUNICH
By 1988-89, Aris was one of the favorites for the European title and assured themselves a ticket to the Final Four of Munich by winning Yugoslavian side Jugoplastika Split (96-85) in Alexandrio Melathro.
In the final phase held in Germany, Yannis Ioannidis’s team counted on the support by 6,000 fans and seemed ready to win Maccabi Tel Aviv in the semifinal. Aris led by 8 (68-60) in 28’, but a brawl at that point made the “yellows” lose their head and finally lose 99-86. In the match for the 3rd place, the Greek side thrashed Barcelona 88-71, showing that they deserved more.
1990: FINAL FOUR IN ZARAGOZA
Season 1989-90 was equally impressive for Aris, which managed to win in Split, against European Champions Jugoplastika (85-89). The “yellows” became the first team ever to qualify to three consecutive Final Four editions of the Champions Cup. Nevertheless, their task seemed very difficult in the semifinal, since they would have to face Barcelona -practically the “host” of the Final Four, which was held in Zaragoza, Spain. The Catalans were too strong for Aris and the cheers of some 2,500 Greek supporters weren’t enough to give the victory to the team from Thessaloniki, which lost 104-83. In the 3rd place match that followed, Aris lost once again (103-91 to French side Limoges).
1993: EUROPEAN CUP CONQUEST, THE DREAM COMES TRUE
The dawn of the new decade signaled the fall of Aris’s empire after seven Hellenic Championships in a row (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991), as well as six Hellenic Cups (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992). In fact, season 1991-92 was very troubled, since there were administrative turmoil (three different presidents were named during that season), constant coach changes (four different coaches tried their luck) and other problems -such as players’ strike- due to heavy financial debts. The only happy moment was the conquest of the Hellenic Cup (74-62 against A.E.K.), but that game would be the farewell of Nikos Galis, after 13 years in Aris.
Nevertheless, season 1992-93, the first of the post-Galis era, brought the first European title. Led by Roy Tarpley -possibly the best foreign player who had come to Greece up to that point- Aris went on the Cup Winners’ Cup final winning Zaragoza on both legs of the semifinals (84-86 in Spain, 82-66 in Thessaloniki).
On March 16th, 1993 the “yellows” faced Turkish side Efes Pilsen on the final, held in Turin, with more than 5,000 Greek fans in the grandstand. After a very tough game, which was marked by the all-time lowest score for a European cup final (50-48), Zvi Sherf’s team was victorious...
1997: THE MIRACLE OF BURSA
By 1997, it was high time that Aris won another European trophy. Having been strengthened up by some great foreign players, such as Jose “Piculin” Ortiz, Charles Shackleford and Mario Boni -nicknamed “the crazy Italian”- and also counting on international Greek players Liadelis, Aggelidis and Sioutis, the “yellows” shone.
They eliminated Turkish side Besiktas and Yugoslavian Beobanka, they also knocked out Peristeri and reached the semifinal, where they would face the Italian powerhouse Benetton Treviso. Aris won 77-73 at Alexandrio Melathro and lost by equal point difference in the second leg, in Italy. Thus, the two teams played overtime in order for the tie to be decided. Boni led the Greek side in these extra 5 minutes and Aris advanced to the final, even though they lost 87-86.
Turkish Tofas Bursa was the opponent of Lefteris Subotic’s team in the final. The first leg, in Thessaloniki, was a nightmare and the Turks won 66-77 against all odds. However, it wasn’t just over yet. In Bursa, Aris overcame all difficulties and was pure magic, winning by 18 points (70-88) and celebrating the conquest of Korac Cup.
2003: THE TWENTIETH TITLE HAS COME
In 1998, Aris won the Hellenic Cup (71-68 against Yannis Ioannidis’s A.E.K. in the final, in Alexandrio Melathro), but the coming of the new millennium made the economical problems bigger and bigger. However, the signs of a better future showed on season 2002-03, when the “yellows” won the 20th major trophy of their history.
Their first chance to do that was at the Hellenic Cup, but they lost to Panathinaikos at the final. Nevertheless, the FIBA Champions Cup Final Four, held in Thessaloniki, has quite a different outcome. Vaggelis Alexandris’s players won 84-83 in the final, against Polish side Prokom Trefl, thanks to an offensive rebound and basket scored by Miro Rajcevic, just 4 seconds before the buzzer. Thus, Aris was able to add a second star above their emblem -a star for each 10 trophies won.
2003: “GENESIS” TAKES OVER AND A NEW ERA BEGINS
In the end of that same season, Aris change route, thanks to the foundation of “Genesis”: A company of eminent Aris supporters took the initiative to guide the club to a brighter future, once the “yellows” were relieved of the debts of the past.
During season 2003-04, the 21st major trophy was added to the club’s cabinet. On February 29th, 2004, Aris won Olympiacos by 73-70 in the Hellenic Cup held in Lamia, after a game full of incidents, which had to be stopped for about two hours and was finalized only after all fans of both teams had evacuated the stadium.
2006: RETURN TO EUROPE’S ELITE
What was left for Aris to achieve was the return to the top European competition. In 2006, under Andrea Mazzon’s guidance, the “yellows” made it: They lost the opportunity of qualifying through ULEB Cup, since they lost to Dynamo Moscow (73-60) in the final game, held in Charleroi, Belgium, but they succeeded in Hellenic Championships. In the 3rd place series, Aris proved to be stronger than Maroussi (3-2 victories) thanks to a 59-63 away win in the last match of the series.
The return to the Euroleague in 2006-07, after 14 years of absence, was truly successful. Aris made it to the “Top 16” of the competition and also renewed their presence to it for the following season. At the Hellenic Championships, the “yellows” had their best regular season record (21 games won - 5 lost) since their last triumph back in 1991. However, they couldn’t take advantage of the 2nd place which they had won, because in the last semifinal match they lost to Olympiacos (75-83) at home and were eliminated by a total of 2 wins - 3 losses. The 3rd place tie, against Panionios, was also to be decided over five games, but Aris was the winner this time and got the ticket for the Euroleague.
In 2007-08, with Gordon Herbert having taken over, Aris also advanced to the “Top 16” of the Euroleague and lost narrowly a place to the quarterfinals. However, in domestic competitions didn’t do that well, since the team got eliminated by Maroussi in the first round of the Hellenic Championships playoffs.
2009: TODAY’S GOALS, TOMORROW’S DREAMS
The very same opponent, Maroussi, cut off Aris’s way to the Euroleague in 2009, as well -and did it twice within a few months. At the ending of the 2008-09 Hellenic Championships, Maroussi “stole” the 3rd place by winning 72-76 in the last gasp, in Thessaloniki. Nevertheless, Aris was invited to participate in the Euroleague qualifying rounds, mostly thanks to the team’s famous fans, who stand out.
Aris was drawn against Maroussi and once again was defeated, even though the “yellows” had been strengthened up by some experienced and well-known Greek players, such as Chatzivrettas, Dikoudis and Kakiouzis. The season 2009-10 took off badly, but it is certain that this team has got great potential and aspirations: The “yellows” are destined to be protagonists, in domestic level as well as in Europe, because this is only appropriate to the club’s glorious history...