More than 17 years after he debuted for his hometown teams, Zalgiris Kaunas forward Paulius Jankunas has now appeared in more Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games than any player in history. Jankunas played his 354th game – all but 16 of them in the green uniform of Zalgiris – in a visit to Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Friday.
With Friday’s appearance, Jankunas surpassed Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid, with whom he was tied, after the latter did not play in his team’s home win against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday. Both were tied with 353 games coming into Round 13 of the current regular season. Behind them are now-retired Juan Carlos Navarro with 341 games, in third place, and Olympiacos Piraeus teammates Vassilis Spanoulis and Georgios Printezis with 336 and 321, respectively.
Jankunas is now playing in his 18th consecutive EuroLeague season, more than any other player this century. He debuted on November 6, 2003, scoring 12 points and pulling 6 rebounds off the bench as a 19-year-old in an 80-74 home win over Panathinaikos. He played alongside Lithuanian hero Arvydas Sabonis the rest of that season, but their Final Four ambitions were frustrated at the last possible second by a Maccabi Tel Aviv team that went on to win the next two EuroLeague titles. It was 15 years later, when Jankunas finally made it to the Final Four, the first for Zalgiris this century in the same season that he was voted to the All-EuroLeague Second Team. He was subsequently named a 2010-2020 All-Decade Nominee.
Jankunas played his first six EuroLeague seasons with Zalgiris, then one for Khimki Moscow Region, before returning to Zalgiris for the last 11 consecutively. He ranked first all-time entering Friday’s game in career rebounds with 1,848; fourth in two-pointers made, with 975; fifth in free throws, with 708; and sixth in points, with 3,078.