Euroleague fans have often seen James Gist in the weekly Top 10 plays over the last three seasons. The Panathinaikos Athens forward is a highlight reel on both ends of the floor, with monster slams or forceful shot-blocks. Since his arrival to the competition in 2010, his spectacular plays have energized Euroleague crowds across the continent, but especially on the four teams he has played with: Partizan Belgrade, Fenerbahce Ulker, Unicaja Malaga and, now, Panathinaikos.
A hard-nosed and highly athletic player, the 27-year-old Gist is far from someone who just makes highlight plays. He's a handful to guard, not just because of his size and athleticism, but also due to his shooting range. Gist has started each game this season and leads Panathinaikos in scoring with 9.8 points per night. Despite his height, 2.06 meters, Gist is also someone who Panathinaikos coach Argiris Pedoulakis has no problem using to defend opposing guards, using his speed and long arms, and as such is a big part of the Top 16's best defense so far, one that allows just 65.5 points per night.
However, it is his high elevation above the rims that gets people talking the most about Gist. He is a sure bet to provide fans with more reasons to come to the game, and Gist will admit that dunks are very special part of the game for him.
"I try to get a reaction out of the fans," Gist explains. "A lot of times I'll get on the fastbreak and be thinking all the time what am I going to do, a windmill or a reverse dunk. And by the time I get to the basket, I have to do a regular dunk."
Another specialty of his is firing up the crowd - and silencing opposing fans - with huge blocks. It is another type of play that usually gets Gist going.
"It gets me more involved, gets me more energized, more focused on the game," he says. "If I can get a spectacular dunk or a spectacular block, or even a steal, something to make a game-changing play and to get everybody fired up, that's what I look forward to."
He might be one of the best at providing broadcasters with highlights, but Gist is certainly not the only one making them in the Euroleague. In his fourth Euroleague season, Gist has seen a bunch of other spectacular plays from his teammates and opponents, but the two he saw in his first Euroleague season, in 2010, stick out for him: Partizan forward Jan Vesely dunking in 2010 over Jan-Hendrik Jagla
of Asseco Prokom, and Jeremy Pargo dunking for Maccabi Electra over shot-blocker Mirza Begic
of Zalgiris Kaunas.
Gist considers himself lucky he played alongside Vesely on Partizan, making them one of the most dynamic duos ever featured in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
"It was great (playing with him), just having another athlete on the floor who can run, jump, get blocked shots as well," he says. "It is hard enough to worry just about one, but to have two people like that, it is hard to stop. I had great time playing with Jan at Partizan."
The two were the team's top scorers, leading Partizan to a Top 16 berth in 2010-11, often raising the roof of Hala Pionir in the Serbian capital. And playing for the clubs whose fan base does not need much to get fired up, Gist knows well that his spectacular plays can become another weapon to win high-level games like in the Euroleague.
"When you play in the Euroleague, it's just a different level of basketball. You have fans there. Lot of times during domestic leagues, the fans aren't really in full support, but when you have a Euroleague game during the week, the crowd is full, the crowd energizes you," he says.
"So when you can do some plays and get the crowd involved, it's kind of like they become a sixth man, somebody that's actually there on the court. They are not really there (on the court), but they really help out."