Milwaukee Bucks star’s incredible journey from street seller to NBA champion
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA champion and his journey to the top might just be the most epic in the history of basketball.
Born in Greece to Nigerian parents in 1994, he worked as a street seller in Athens as a kid to help his family make ends meet.
Now, he has won the NBA Finals MVP trophy, becoming the first player since Bob Pettit 60 years ago to score 50 points in an NBA Finals game.
The two-time league MVP has spoken at length about the struggles he and his family endured in Greece, with his family often lacking the proper paperwork. He and his brothers Francis, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex would sell trinkets in the street to help the family.
In 2007, he started to play basketball and caught the attention of scouts with his performances in the Zografou Indoor Hall. One of those to spot his talent was Willy Villar, the Real Zaragoza sporting director. So, in 2012, Antetokounmpo signed a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks , Giannis Antetokounmpo , NBA, Greece, Nigeriae Spanish side.
Yet Antetokounmpo quickly improved and shot up draft boards ahead of the 2013 NBA draft, eventually being selected 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. They considered loaning him to Real Zaragoza, but kept him and made him one of the youngest NBA players ever at the age of 18.
Following a solid rookie season, the player improved and improved. In 2017, he was even given the league’s Most Improved Player award. MVP awards followed in 2019 and 2020, as well as the Defensive Player of the Year honour in 2020.
Now, in his eighth year in the league, he has won the championship and taken the NBA Finals trophy too.
It hasn’t been easy for Antetokounmpo, not least because his parents’ immigration status meant he wasn’t granted Greek citizenship until 2013.
Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the leader of Greece’s far-right party Golden Dawn, even attacked that decision in public. “If you give a chimpanzee in the zoo a banana and a flag, is he Greek?” Michaloliakos said.
Antetokounmpo has overcome the obstacles that were put in his path.
“I represent both of my countries, Nigeria and Greece, and a lot of kids from there,” he said after winning the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
“For the whole of Africa and Europe. I know that I’m a role model.
“This should make everybody believe in their dreams. When things look down and it looks like you might not make it in your career, in basketball or anything, just believe in what you’re doing and keep working. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t be or can’t do.”
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