All eyes were on James Gist as the experienced Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade forward made a swift return to his former club Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on the very first night of the new Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season.
It certainly looked as though Gist had never been away – which, technically, he hadn’t – as he was honored by the host club before the contest and then made a lightning-fast start, needing only 34 seconds to score the first basket of the game. Gist then continued to easily find his way to the rim he had so frequently attacked during his six and a half seasons as a Panathinaikos player, reaching 8 points and 5 rebounds – all of them on the offensive end – in the first quarter alone as his Zvezda team took early command.
However, there was a heavy price to pay for Gist’s aggressive approach towards rebounding as he reached 3 fouls early in the second quarter and was taken out of the action for the remainder of the first half. His fourth foul duly followed early in the third, but walking the disciplinary tightrope didn’t stop Gist from contributing heavily in the final quarter as Zvezda attempted to overturn a double-digit deficit. He scored 5 points in the final 2 minutes, including a trademark alley-oop as previously witnessed on countless occasions in the same arena.
Those determined efforts were not enough to win the game, but it did allow Gist to compile some impressive numbers: a game-high 22 points, 7 rebounds - including 6 offensive boards, just 1 short of his personal best, 1 assist and 4 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 17 – although he may be slightly disappointed with his shooting percentage after making 9 of his 20 field goal attempts (45%). No doubt more important to Gist than those numbers, though, was the warm ovation he received from Panathinaikos fans before and after the game, showing he will always have a part in the Greek giant’s history.
The final word of tribute went to his former teammate and close friend Nick Calathes, who smiled as he said: “Me and JG are very close. We played together for four years, so being opponents was definitely different. I’m glad he played well, but I’m also glad that we got the win.”