Antetokounmpo outlines family strife in Greece on his way to NBA
Inspirational story of the Bucks' rookie's journey to the NBA and what he's gone through in his native Greece.
Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a hard road to the NBA. In a brilliant feature on OnMilwaukee.com, the Nigerian-born Greek details the struggles he and his family went through during Greece's turmoiled recent history.
It's a remarkably heartwarming tale and shows just how much basketball can change the lives of a player and his family. Some brief selections to prod you to read it.
"For 20 years they were illegal," he continued. "It's very hard to live for 20 years without papers. Very, very hard. You have children and you have to go out and work without papers. At any moment, the cops can stop you and say come over here and let me send you back to your country.
"For me, my parents, they are heroes."
Being drafted into the NBA is a good thing; a good thing in our life. It's a very, very big, good thing in our life, in our family too," Veronica said. "We've worked very, very hard and it was difficult to live."
Her son was celebrated now. Not just as a citizen, but as an ambassador.
"I was so happy," Giannis said about the citizenship. "A little thing means so much for me. That little thing means so much for me and my family."
After being granted citizenship, after being named to the Greek National Team, after the draft, the cloud over Greece found Giannis. The leader of the Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, hurled racial and ethnic epithets at Giannis and at Bucks owner Herb Kohl in a television interview, saying Giannis should have been arrested at the steps of the Maximos Mansion and deported.
This is why an innocuous media day query on the eve of training camp about the expectations from back home to perform well drew an unusual response.
"I don't feel pressure or anything else but my friends, my family and basketball," Giannis said. "Nothing else can pressure me. So, they can't touch me."
The power of the last four words, the subtext, could be felt.
Later, Giannis admitted his answer was in response to the backlash he's received, especially from Michaloliakos.
"Yes, of course," he said. "Anything they say, even if was in the past, people that say bad stuff about me or my family, they can't touch me. With that, I mean (that) I can just play my game. They can't pressure me or something like that. He don't touch me.
"It'll be nice that family can be here and be away from anything that's happening in Greece. But I love my country. Greece is my country. I'm going to go back home. But it's nice to have my family here in the U.S."
The man Twitter has christened "The Alphabet" has wowed in preseason. In particular I've seen that he's got good footwork and the ability to hit shots off-balance, too very rare skills in the NBA. Also, as Zach Harper noted this week, the kid has downright freakish hands.
He's young, and ascribing personal values to players is always tricky. More than anything, Antetokounmpo's tale hould serve as a window into the kind of terrible conditions many in Greece are living through, and a changing political tide in a nation devastated by financial crisis.
And if it makes it a little more fun to root for The Alphabet, all the better.
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