Giannis Antetokounmpo - the road to victory
“Our story should be an inspiration that dreams are meant to come true. No matter where you are in your life, just work and don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do” – Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (06. 12. 1994) – it wasn’t easy for him to achieve success. He was the son of illegal immigrants from Nigeria, so by the age of 12 he already had to work to help his family earn money for food. On the streets of Athens he used to sell fake branded watches, handbags or sunglasses. At that time he lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Athens and his poor family had to live only in two rooms.
In his youth he wasn’t interested in basketball. His dream was to become a footballer and be like Thierry Henry. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to develop his passion because after coming back from school he worked illegally on the street, which consumed most of his time.
An important moment in his life was when he met Spiros Velliniatis, the coach of the amateur club Filathlitikos. Velliniatis was the person who saw young Giannis’ potential and convinced him to play basketball.
That was not the end of his problems. Initially the boy played for an amateur team in the suburbs of Athens, and unfortunately very few people watched the games, which were not even broadcast on public television. In this situation, head hunters from the United States had difficulties with appreciating the potential of a young player and observing his development. Although Giannis was said to have talent and score points for his team, many clubs from America were not convinced about him due to the fact that he played only in II Greek league, which was not one of the best leagues. Also Giannis’ physique did not work in his favor – although his long arms and legs indicated that he could become bigger and stronger, due to the bad conditions in which he had to live, the boy was very thin and close to anemia.
In 2013, he was able to fulfill his goal – he flew to New York to become a professional basketball player. Unfortunately, just before the journey the lack of proper documents turned out to be another problem. For 18 years of his life, he did not have any citizenship, neither Nigerian nor Greek. Fortunately, the Greek government granted him citizenship just before his trip.
On the day of the draft (the annual recruitment for the best league in the world), he wore a suit for the first time in his life. It was a very stressful day for the young player, especially that during the ceremony most teams were afraid to take a chance and take him on their team. Finally, the moment, which changed his entire life, came – he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Since then, his career took off. He practiced hard under the guidance of one of the Bucks coaches who always accompanied him during trainings. In his first season, he put his wages into his family’s account and left himself the bare minimum to survive.
His role models were LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He admired their skills, wondering if he would ever match them.
Today he is one of the best players and has earned the nickname “Greek Freak” because of his amazing skills. He won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award twice, and in 2020 it was announced that the Milwaukee team would extend his contract by five years for a record $228 million.
He and the Milwaukee Bucks team became NBA champions in 2021. His impact on the game and on the victory was indisputable – he scored as many as 50 points in the final game, which was previously achieved by, among others, LeBron James and Michael Jordan.