At the rate he’s going, the Greek Freak’s income may be able to put a small dent into the Greek debt crisis.
The Milwaukee Bucks basketball team have signed a four-year $100 million extension deal, locking the Greek basketball star and making him the highest paid Greek athlete in history.
Antetokounmpo averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists during the 2015 season. The “Greek Freak” as he calls himself and as his fans have come to know him, has increased his point total each season, going from 6.8 points in his rookie year to over 17 points per game.
He’s also extremely durable, missing only six games in his three seasons as the Bucks small forward. It is also rumored that the young phenom will get time at point guard this season, which would be an anomaly since Antetokounmpo is six-feet eleven inches tall.
Antetokounmpo was drafted by the Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft with the 15th pick in the first round. He became the first player in franchise history to record five triple-doubles in a season, and now ranks third on the Bucks’ all-time list for career triple-doubles.
The son of immigrants from Nigeria, Antetokounmpo was born in Athens and raised in Greek schools, speaking nothing but Greek.
For most of his life, he was, literally, a man without a country. Greek law prohibited non-Greek born children of immigrants in the country to become naturalized as Greek citizens, leaving Antetokounmpo— like thousands of others— in limbo.
This prevented him from playing on Greece’s national team and even from traveling abroad. The matter came to a heated close when he was mentioned as a top draft pick in the NBA draft in 2013.
Giannis was stuck in Greek red tape and archaic— some would call anti-foreigner— laws.
But some heavy politicking and lobbying by the Greek Basketball Federation got Giannis’ (and his brother’s) case accelerated and he was granted Greek citizenship right before he was set to travel to New York City for the draft. He was the #15 pick by the Milwaukee Bucks that year.
When his name was announced, his brother waved the Greek flag proudly.
“A dream came true. We are now officially Greek citizens, as we felt all these years,” said the brothers in a joint statement at the time.
But their dream wasn’t the dream of some neo-fascist racists in Greece who attacked the players and then prime minister Antonis Samaras.
“We are proud to see you in the NBA,” he said. “We have to thank you for raising the Greek flag during the draft. We all hope that you will make them go crazy with your dunks.”
Nikos Michaloilakos, head of Greece’s far right wing Neo Nazi party lashed out at Giannis and the Greek prime minister, calling the 6-foot-9 player a “chimpanzee” in a television interview.
Samaras issued an angry response.
“Giannis didn’t become Greek in ‘papers.’ He fought for it. He went to school. He learned to speak Greek better than many people. Nobody asked him to do it, but he was baptized as an Orthodox Christian. He started from the playgrounds of Athens to find himself in the NBA. He choose to be Greek. He fought for it and he deserves it. He is one of us. He makes us all proud. He is more Greek than those who talk bad about him because of the color of his skin and then burn our flag. Those people disgrace our country,” Samaras said in reference to Greece’s Neo Nazis.
The American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA)– an organization founded by Greek Americans as a direct response to racism against them in the 1920s– responded accordingly at the time.
The AHEPA released a statement from then president John Grossomanides which said: “We strongly condemn the racial slur directed toward Mr. Antetokounmpo by Golden Dawn’s leader. Simply stated, it is unacceptable. We applaud the Hellenic Basketball Federation for strongly condemning the remark, and we join with the federation in condemning the racial slur in the strongest terms. We wish Mr. Antetokounmpo the best in the pursuit of his NBA dream.”