When you combine basketball skills and smarts with selflessness and high-level physical ability, you get the prototype for an elite basketball player. That is exactly what Anthony Parker and Dimitris Diamantidis were as huge stars for some of the best teams in the EuroLeague.
What they had in common was the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. Maccabi Tel Aviv swingman Parker, who was selected to the 2000-2010 All-Decade Team, was best known for his scoring ability. Panathinaikos Athens legend Diamantidis, who is – along with Juan Carlos Navarro – one of only two players selected to the All-Decade Team for each of the past two decades, is considered one of the best defensive players in competition history. But their true strengths were in doing whatever they could to make their teammates better and lift their clubs to victory. And they did so on a nightly basis.
Parker played five full seasons in a Maccabi uniform and led the team to the Final Four in each of them. After spending three seasons in the NBA, he was 25 years of age when he signed with Maccabi and led the team to the SuproLeague title. The following season they reached the EuroLeague Final Four, where Panathinaikos knocked them out in the semifinals. Parker took time off in the fall of 2002 for the birth of a child and returned to basketball later that season with Virtus Rome. He rejoined Maccabi for the next season to become the star of one of the most dangerous offensive teams in EuroLeague history. Maccabi won back-to-back EuroLeague titles and reached the championship in 2006, too.
No player was more decorated from that Maccabi team than Parker, who was chosen as the EuroLeague MVP in both 2005 and 2006 – the first two seasons in which the trophy was awarded. He remains the only two-time MVP in competition history. He was also the Final Four MVP in 2004. Parker’s career performance index rating of 21.4 over 90 EuroLeague games is the highest in league history. His scoring average of 16.3 points is second in EuroLeague history to only Alexey Shved with players with at least 60 games played.
Diamantidis began his professional career with Iraklis Thessaloniki and was 24 when Panathinaikos signed him. He quickly assumed the mantle as the starting point guard and Coach Zeljko Obradovic’s floor general. Over his 12 seasons with the Greens, Diamantidis won three EuroLeague crowns – and was the Final Four MVP for both the first (2007) and last (2011) of those triumphs. He was 2011 EuroLeague MVP and chosen to the All-EuroLeague First Team four times, which is second in competition history.
From the time the EuroLeague Best Defender Trophy was instituted for the 2004-05 season, no player laid hands on it aside from Diamantidis for five full seasons. He captured it a sixth time in 2011, too. Diamantidis’s 434 career steals remain the most in EuroLeague history, however, he excelled on both ends of the floor. When he retired in 2016, Diamantidis was the all-time leader with 1,255 assists, though he has since been surpassed by two former teammates – Vassilis Spanoulis and Nick Calathes.
In seven career EuroLeague Final Four games, Parker scored at least 10 points every time, but he was much more than a scorer. As the team’s best weapon, he drew at least 6 fouls in four of those games. He led the team with 6 assists in the 2005 championship game victory over Tau Ceramica Vitoria-Gasteiz. Often Parker drew the opposition’s top perimeter scorer as a defensive assignment, too.
It was a given that Diamantidis would attack the opponent’s best perimeter scorer, but when scoring was called for, he knew what to do. Diamantidis’s top two EuroLeague games in points scored were both in the playoffs, including 25 points on 15-of-18 free-throw shooting in an 86-85 victory over Maccabi in the fifth and deciding game of the 2012 playoffs against Maccabi. Likewise, he knew how to make the most of the scorers around him; Diamantidis set the Final Four record with 18 assists – 9 in both the semifinal and championship game – in 2011 that stood until Real Madrid’s Facu Camapazzo tallied 21 in 2019.
They only faced one another once in the EuroLeague. In the 2005 EuroLeague semifinals in Moscow, Parker produced 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal to fuel the Israeli champs to a 91-82 victory. Diamantidis tallied 16 points, 5 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in a masterful effort.
No matter how you examine their careers, Anthony Parker and Dimitris Diamantidis are two of the best to ever wear their respective clubs’ colors and among the premier players in the past two decades in European basketball.