From Greek Freak to Greek God

Drop the Freak: Giannis Antetokounmpo should be considered the Greek God of basketball.

Last night, Giannis won his first NBA championship and became the first player in NBA history to win Most Improved Player, multiple Most Valuable Player Awards, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP. He’s the first player ever to average 30/10/5 on 60% shooting in a Finals series. And he did it all with a hyperextended knee.

“Beauty in the struggle,” he wrote after rapper J. Cole dropped “Love Yourz.” Fitting.

Rewind to when he was a kid in Greece. He worked as a street seller in Athens to help his family make ends meet. When he was 12 years old, he picked up a basketball and played at Zografou Indoor Hall. He caught the eyes of two scouts — and the rest is history.

When the Bucks drafted him in 2013, an 18-year-old Giannis looked at his parents, pointed to the rafters and said, “Maybe in 15-20 years, my name is up there next to Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Oscar Robertson.” 

That same year on a gameday in December, Giannis took a taxi to a local Western Union so he could send all of his earnings back home to his family in Greece. After realizing he didn’t have enough money to get back, he started running back to Bradley Center in the blistering cold. He saw a young couple driving and asked for a ride, hopped in the back seat, and they took him to the stadium. 

“I started playing basketball just to help my family. Tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we were facing when we were kids,” Giannis said. “Don’t let nobody tell you what you can’t be or what you cannot do.”