By cy.Reporter, 21 July, 2021
About 15 years ago he was secretly on the streets of Athens to support himself and his family as a street vendor, while his blood tests reminded him of a middle-aged man even though he was a child. Now, after two consecutive conquests of mvp awards, for a few hours now Giannis Antetokounbo is at the top of Everest basketball and holds in his hands both the NBA championship and the award of the most valuable player in the series of finals. CyNews unfolds the unique story of the wonder of nature, reveals aspects of the long journey from Greece to the USA… and leads to the final "stop", to the conquest of the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks. As Shaquille O'Neal said shortly after the end of the final "There is only one Superman now and that is you. You ruled Giannis Antitokoumbo ", with Greek Freak being the hero in a story that evolved from a nightmare into an absolute dream, when he was transformed from a poor child into the… king of the NBA!
Winter 1994. Athens, Greece. Veronica and Charles Antitokunbo see another boy in the family come to life. The third son behind Francis and Thanasis. Francis had stayed in Lagos, Nigeria with his grandparents who had seen the Antitokunbo family leave the African continent to find a better place in Europe. Fate brought Charles and Veronica to Athens where they were living illegally and trying to make a living both for themselves, and later for Thanasis and now for the new member of the family. Giannis Antetokounbo.
A small apartment in the "heart" of the capital, a bed and several days a plate of food for everyone. This was almost a daily routine for the family. The years passed and Giannis had to contribute too, not because his parents wanted him to, but because he had to. At the same time he had to be careful and away from the "eyes" of the police, as the whole family was living illegally in the country. "It is not that we did not eat, I will do injustice to my parents, because they did everything and offered us the best possible, every day. But it was impossible to eat what we needed to, to take care of our body, as we do now. I usually did not eat breakfast, I went straight to school, I was coming home and I had to go to training. It took me a little over an hour to get on the field, so I ate whatever was, if any. In fact, the first meal of my day was at 11 pm, when I was returning from training. " As for their life as a retailer, he stated that "I was selling glasses, watches, CDs and DVDs. I was the best seller. "My secret was that I did not give up."
Some days he might have made 25 to 30 euros which in his eyes looked like… millions. However, every day he lived with the anxiety of deportation. "When you are illegal, you do not want to walk on the street, the police can stop you and send you back to your country, you may never see your children again. If I came home from school and could not find my mother, my mind would run. I wondered where she was, wondering if she and my father were well. Many times I thought that my parents would be deported, fortunately this day did not come".
Life may have shown her πρόσω ugly face to John, but at the same time, every day that passed she gave him her best gift… Athlete's son, as his father was a professional soccer player and his mother a professional high jump athlete, he saw to grow taller, to grow much faster than children of his age. This may have been another problem for little Giannis, as it did not help him to go unnoticed.
He spent many afternoons in the open fields of Sepolia. The ball was his way out of everyday life. He did not care if he played football, basketball… He only wanted one ball… In Sepolia, the municipality had created public basketball courts where the children of the surrounding apartment buildings unfolded their talent every day. There John made friends and unfolded his talent. If it were not for the fields of the municipality, we might never have known Giannis and his life. If it were not for Triton's open field in Sepolia, coach Spyros Velliniatis would never have seen him play and he would never have been given the opportunity to make the start for the "launch" into the magical world of the NBA. The Greek coach was helping children from Africa, wanting to save their lives through sports… So it was with Antetokunbo.
However, the Greek-Nigerian basketball player knew all aspects of life on a daily basis. February 2, 2013. After a defeat by Aeolos Trikalon, Giannis and his brother Thanasis are treated racistly by the people who were on the field, they hear insults, they hear a few times about the color of their skin. Usual scenes - unfortunately - for a local Greek stadium, however the psyche of the then 18-year-old Giannis is affected so much, where he stops going to the national youth training for 2 weeks. Then the coach of the National Youth Costas Missas with the president of Philathlitikos Giannis Smyrlis are by his side, supporting him and convincing him.
John has begun to attract the eyes of scouts both from the old continent and from abroad. However, the results of the first ergometric tests for the young basketball player came to capture in the most brilliant way the difficulties he was facing. The manager George Panou who saw and believed in the talent of little Giannis confesses his verse tale with the surprised doctor. "I just saw the test results. "Tell your grandfather to stop drinking, eating meat and walking a little," he tells me, and at first I thought he was drunk. ‘Which grandfather? I did not have a grandfather with me, a 16-year-old child took the exams', I answer him. The other day I saw him, he explained to me that John's liver looked like 70 years old! It is as if we had a Ferrari and instead of gasoline, we put water in it".
December 2012. John sees life "turn a blind eye". Spanish Zaragoza earns his signature for 250,000 euros a year for the next four years. However, when he realized that he would take the big step of his career away from his parents, he took the contract and tore it!
June 27, 2013. Giannis Antetokounbo is surrounded by young basketball players. Suddenly numbers start to be heard, when in number 15 the name of "Giannis Antetokounmpo" is heard. David Stern shouts the name of the shocked John on behalf of the Milwaukee Bucks. The 19-year-old basketball player looks shocked, when his brother Thanasis gives him a Greek flag and heads to the stage "When it's your turn in the draft, a man from the NBA warns you. At the same time, you see the camera marking you. I saw her too, except that Rudy Gomber was sitting above me, so I was not very sure. Eventually, I heard my name, got up, went downstairs, and walked over to David Stern, who shook my hand and wished me good luck. Now that I see them from afar, I feel proud. It was the moment when I managed to justify myself for the rest of my life. From the anxiety to help my family in Greece, until the moment I headed to Stern".
From his first games in the magical world of the NBA, he showed his boundless talent. "Greek Freak" was the nickname that the Americans "stuck" to him, as his body still could not synchronize with the talent that nature had given him. In 77 games he averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and finished the season with 61 cuts, while he was selected in the second NBA All-Rookie Team. In the second season he became the youngest athlete in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks who exceeded 1000 points and doubled his points having an average of 12.7, compared to 6.8 points last season.
2017 and Giannis emerges as the most improved player in the NBA! At the same time, it receives the full support of the Greeks, as in the electronic voting on social networks for participation in the ALL STAR GAME, the Greek users with the hashtag GiannisAntetokounmpo # NBAVOTE help to be included in the top basketball players, making him the youngest foreign player in history. in the top five of ALL STAR of the Eastern region. However, that year Giannis will remember her for both the positives and the negatives. It was September 29 when he lost his father to a heart attack. It was something that marked him and after a year he wanted to share it publicly saying "A year has passed dad, so many things have happened since the day you left for a better place and I know you were watching us with a smile, just like the one in the photo . I think of you every day and I miss you so much, but September 29th is not going to be a sad day in my calendar but a day to think about how great a father and role model you have been to me and my siblings. I love you very much, your son".
The loss of his father, perhaps, made him even more stubborn, pushed him to work his body even harder, to improve his technique and to become better and better from game to game. Now, the Milwaukee had supported their entire way of playing, around their new leader who could play from the position of play maker to the center with the same ease.
Early morning of June 25, 2019 in Greece. Giannis Antetokounbo is on the podium. Below his family and his wife. He tries to realize what has happened, holding in his hand the trophy of the most valuable player for the season he spent in the whole NBA, but not being able to hold back his tears he says: "First of all I want to thank God who blessed me with this the talent to be where I am today. I want to thank God for putting me in this position, I do all this with his help. I want to thank my team, first of all my teammates, it takes more than one player to win 61 games. Everyone was ready to come to war with me. I want to thank the coaching staff who pressed us every day and taught us what they do for us every day. I want to thank the owners of the Bucks, who believed in me when I was 18 when I was in Greece. They trusted me. I want to thank the city of Milwaukee, Greece and the Nigerians who support me. It is now 6 in the morning in Greece and they stay awake to watch me. I want to thank my father, who is not with us. Two years ago I had a goal, to become the top of the league. Every time I walk on the floor I think of my father, who pushed me more to get better and told me that this is the only way I will succeed. I love you very much. You are my role models. Thank you for everything you have done for me. I would like to thank my amazing mother, Veronica. She is my heroine. If you do not have a good parent you can not predict your future. That's my support".
December 15, 2020. Giannis Antitokoumbo 6 days before the end of the agreement for the renewal of the cooperation with Milwaukee says "yes" and becomes the highest paid basketball player in the history of the NBA, overcoming all the legends of the orange ball. The Milwaukee superstar has signed a five-year contract that will bring him $ 228.2 million with the city bridge dressed in blue and white and John saying "This is a great moment for me and my family. my. I want to thank the organization that believes in us. They took a risk eight years ago and putting my signature on a contract like this is unbelievable. All this was done thanks to hard work. This is my home and I will continue to work hard, I will do my best to make the Bucks, the fans and the city proud. Let us enjoy it, let us win and let us make these years gain value".
Early morning of July 21. Giannis Antitokoumbo led the NBA to victory and the NBA title on his own, helping Milwaukee to turn the series against the Phoenix Suns from 2-0 to 4-2, scoring 50 points in the last and decisive match, while in the second period, where his teammates were aimless and anxious, he scored 7 points, while all the others together scored only 6! At the end of the match, Giannis turned to his mother, his wife and his child and started crying, not being able to realize what he had just achieved. However, the statistics speak for themselves. The 26-year-old superstar became the first player in history to score at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a final match. He became the first player after Shaquille O'Neal (2000) to have +40 points and +10 rebounds in three different games in the finals, while Only Michael Jordan (1993) and Antitokunbo have managed to score 20 points in a season in final match!
After the match, the MVP stressed that: "I represent both my home countries, Nigeria and Greece. Many children across Africa and all over Europe have me as a role model. This success should make everyone believe in their dreams. When you are not feeling well, believe in what you are doing, keep working. I am told that I can not shoot, but tonight I shot and I am the champion. I put them on when I needed to. I'm joking. Ή and no… Believe. I hope I give the children hope that they can do it. 8.5 years ago I did not know my next move. My mom was selling things on the streets. Now I'm on top, I'm blessed. Even if I can never get here again, I'm fine. I am fine with what I have achieved. I hope this will give hope to everyone, will allow them to believe in their dream".
Research, writing, editing: Christos Davos (cyNews sports editor)