Giannis Antetokounmpo, the kid from Sepolia, Greece, who once sold watches and sunglasses on the streets of Athens to survive, became the king of basketball on Tuesday after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the first NBA title in a half-century.
Behind 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks from their superstar forward, the Bucks fought off the Phoenix Suns to win the franchise’s first championship since 1971 on their home turf.
This is a remarkable achievement for Antetokounmpo who started his life hawking goods through the streets of Athens. From a poor background to stardom, Antetokounmpo lives the American dream like millions of Greeks who have emigrated to the United States over the centuries.
Before winning the NBA title, the 26-year-old won back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Awards in 2019 and 2020, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to win two MVPs. before turning 26. .
Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013
In 2013, Antetokounmpo stood between his parents on the field inside the Bradley Center and gazed at the rafters, where retired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson jerseys hung from the rafters.
“Maybe in 15 years, 20 years,” said the young man, “maybe my name is up there next to Kareem, Oscar Robertson.” I hope I’m here. “
He had just been drafted No. 15 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft. And on Tuesday night, with over 80,000 people crammed in and around the Fiserv Forum, Antetokounmpo capped a spectacular NBA Final with a performance legendary for doing what, until now, only Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson had ever done: lead the Bucks to an NBA Title.
Antetokounmpo returns to Athens as a hero
Antetokounmpo was born in the Athens district of Sepolia on December 6, 1994, the son of immigrants from Nigeria. Three years earlier, his parents had moved from Lagos, leaving behind their eldest son, Francis, with his grandparents.
In 2019, he returned to Sepolia and received a hero’s welcome. Thousands of Greeks came to greet their local hero.
The Greek Freak, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Alex Antetokounmpo, as well as their mother Veronica Antetokounmpo and their older brother Francis Antetokounmpo, organized the event “AntetokounBros” 2019 which took place in the region where the family lived and the neighborhood young The children of Antetokounmpo have grown up.
Sepolia was where it all started for Giannis and his brothers. “It’s amazing. Who would have imagined that would happen? I have chills with what was going on today,” said Giannis. “No matter what you accomplish, the goal is to remember where you got it. start. I will always start at Sepolia.
Although Giannis and three of his four brothers were born in Greece, they did not automatically receive full Greek citizenship, as the Greek nationality law follows jus sanguinis. For the first 18 years of his life, Antetokounmpo was effectively stateless, having no papers from Nigeria or Greece.
Greek citizenship in 2013
After obtaining Greek citizenship in 2013, his family Hellenized his surname from Adetokunbo to Antetokounmpo to follow Greek spelling rules more closely. His parents, as immigrants, could not easily find work, so Giannis and his older brother, Thanasis, helped him by selling watches, handbags and sunglasses on the streets.
In 2007 Antetokounmpo started playing basketball and in 2011 joined his local team Filathlitikos. After a brief stint in Spain, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. The rest is history.
Disney’s biopic Antetokounmpo, which focuses on the NBA star’s teenage years, was filmed recently in Athens.
After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the first NBA title in half a century, spoke to Greek fans. the NBA star has said he expects 100,000 Greeks to come to Athens airport. He would have returned home on Saturday.
– Harris Stavrou (@harris_stavrou) July 21, 2021