Benny Jay: Sofoklis Schortsianitis — Superstar!

September 4th, 2014

I’m on the phone talking politics with the great Dan Mihalopoulos, ace political reporter for the Chicago Sun Times.

But somehow the topic turns to basketball, as it usually does with me.

And Dan says…

“Greece versus Argentina in the World Cup is about to start.”

To which I say…

“For ten trivia points, what’s the only country to beat a USA team that was coached by Mike Krzyzewski?”

And to my utter shock, Dan says…

“Greece. 2006 World Cup.”

Wow! You never know who’s a secret b-ball junkie.

“That’s the team with Vassilis Spanoulis,” says Dan.

Double wow! Cause, let’s face it, Vassilis Spanoulis, is not what you would call a household name.

Unwilling to let Dan have the last word on great Greek b-ballers, I say…

“Let’s not forget the big man — Sofoklis Schortsianitis.


Sofoklis was the big man in the middle on that great 2006 Greek team…


By the way, I might mention that Dan’s of Greek extraction. So he has something of an excuse for knowing so much about Greek basketball.

In the contrast, the only thing Greek about me is that I love Greek cooking. So, once again, there’s no excuse for the useless stuff I’ve crammed into my brain.

Anyway, one thing leads to another and we wind up asking that timeless question: Who’s the greatest Greek basketball player of all time?

“Kosta Koufos,” says Dan. “He used to play for the Nuggets.”

“Kurt Rambis,” I say.

“Wow — good choice,” says Dan.

Just between you and me, I only learned that Rambis was Greek after I Googled “Great Greek basketball players.”

Please don’t tell Dan.


Everyone remembers Kurt Rambis…


Then Dan says Rony Seikly.

“Actually, I believe he was born in Lebanon,” I say.

“I believe it was Cyprus,” says Dan.

So I Google Rony Seikly. And guess what?

I’m right!! God, I love when that happens.

“You owe me lunch,” I tell him.

I’m already dreaming of Taramosalata and Mediterranean Baby Octopus, even though, technically, he owes me nothing. Cause we had not officially made a bet.

From there it’s only a quick hop, skip and a jump to one of my favorite topics: Great Jewish basketball players.

A list I generally pad by including everyone and anyone who’s good, whether he’s Jewish or not. Hell, if Dan has a good jump shot, I’d put him on the list.

Anyway, I’m set to hang up, when it hits me.

“Wait — there’s that kid who plays for the Bucks.”

“Oh, yes,” says Dan. “Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Remember that name.”

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