To become the all-worldly player that Giannis Antetokounmpo has become, overcoming countless bouts with adversity, immigrating to a country that he not accustomed to, and having to deal with the loss of his father all have helped shape the Greek Freak into the type of person more than the type of player that he is today.

The 15th selection in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo was seen as a big-time risk at the time, even though he had easily established himself in the upper echelon of Greek professional basketball. His status in the second tier of amateur leagues was a big aspect to teams being a bit shy towards his overall potential, but he nonetheless attracted a plethora of scouts from NBA teams to the Greece stands.

In the same way that the Bucks took a chance on GA in ‘13, Antetokounmpo took a massive chance on the sport of basketball earlier on in his childhood, paving the way for not only the success of himself but also the improvements of his family that he was so often counted on to provide for.

Childhood

Growing up as a member of a Nigerian immigrant family in the streets of Greece was very unfriendly to the Antetokounmpos, both emotionally and financially. Constantly under the barrage of hate spewed by Greece citizens for the differences that the Antetokounpos had in skin color, accents and ways of life, Giannis, his four brothers (Francis, Thanasis, Kostas, and Alex), and his parents (Charles and Veronica) were forced to make do with what they could.

Francis is the lone Antetokounpo sibling not born in Greece, as he stayed back with his grandparents in Nigeria when the remainder of the family immigrated to Greece in hopes of obtaining better employment opportunities. The other four Antetokounmpo kids, Thanasis, Giannis, Kostas, and Alex, were all born in Greece, but the entire family was unable to earn Greek citizenship due to extensive Greek laws.

Many people are aware of how Giannis and his brothers helped out the family financially, selling DVDs, sunglasses and other pieces in town for money, and these uncertainties translated into the sport of basketball as well. Starting off playing soccer, the Antetokounpos eventually changed to focusing on basketball, and eventually garnered enough attention of professional teams there to gain an opportunity.

Playing in gyms that they ended up sleeping the night in and being forced to share one pair of basketball shoes between themselves, Giannis and Thanasis, who was the oldest of the boys that were in Greece, made it work and gained the needed notoriety to transfix the world as they have today.

Giannis got his professional start with the junior squad of the Filathlitikos B.C., a Greek club. After dominating the junior ranks, Giannis was bumped up to the senior squad, where he continued to evolve and eventually made a name for himself on NBA radars.

While Giannis is the obvious best player in the family, Thanasis (Bucks) and Kostas (Los Angeles Lakers) are both in the NBA as well, after toiling their ways through various D-League and international basketball leagues.

NBA Stardom

Giannis’ transition into life as a first-round pick in an NBA draft was not smooth in any regard, but the Bucks have been in his corner ever since they selected him. Working with Giannis to not only bring his family over to the United States but also making sure he had the correct resources to keep him focused on basketball in the U.S., the Bucks have showcased their loyalty to Antetokounmpo since day one, and he has repaid them 100-fold.

Joining the league during a time of position basketball did not suit Giannis well, but with a little bit of finessing and the eventual solidifying of the head coaching role for Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo was able to put his full skill set on display, even with as raw as it may have been.

Jim Boylan, Larry Drew, Jason Kidd, Joe Prunty, and Mike Budenholzer have had the opportunity to coach Giannis, but it was under Kidd where the true player that GA was and has developed into was finally unleashed, although he was still being held back plenty.

Kidd implemented a sense of positionless basketball within the Bucks’ starting five, and Giannis thrived in that opportunity, creating opportunistic mismatches while showing his abilities to play close to all five positions in average-to-above-average capacities. However, Kidd was also the downfall to the halt of GA’s development, as his jump shot and willingness to shoot the ball, especially the 3-ball, was shut down and stunted.

Prunty was merely a holdover from when Kidd was fired mid-season, and Bud was brought in to help oversee an over-achieving Bucks team that had the right pieces in the right pieces but just needed that final piece – a competent, experienced coach who knew no moment to be too big.

Across seven seasons in the NBA that have taken Giannis from age 19 to age 25, he has taken leaps in every season, improving upon most statistical categories each and every year.

‘13 – ‘14: 6.8 pts / 4.4 reb / 1.9 ast / 41.4 FG% / 34.7 3PT%
‘14 – ‘15: 12.7 pts / 6.7 reb / 2.6 ast / 49.1 FG% / 15.9 3PT%
‘15 – ‘16: 16.9 pts / 7.7 reb / 4.3 ast / 50.6 FG% / 25.7 3PT%
‘16 – ‘17: 22.9 pts / 8.8 reb / 5.4 ast / 52.1 FG% / 27.2 3PT%
‘17 – ‘18: 26.9 pts / 10.0 reb / 4.8 ast / 52.9 FG% / 30.7 3PT%
‘18 – ‘19: 27.7 pts / 12.5 reb / 5.9 ast / 57.8 FG% / 25.6 3PT%
‘19 – ‘20: 29.6 pts / 13.7 reb / 5.8 ast / 54.7 FG% / 30.6 3PT%

While his ‘19 – ‘20 stats are a lot higher on average than his other seasons, it is due to the season having been paused at 57 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the entire world.

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Giannis took home the 2018 – 2019 NBA Most Valuable Player award in convincing fashion, and deservedly so. On pace to win back-to-back MVPs, the currently-postponed ‘19-’20 NBA season provided everyone a chance to see how dominant Giannis truly is and how he should be rewarded for those amazing feats.

The story of Giannis seems to add another chapter on a daily basis, as he continues to give back through various means to show that while he understands that he has been able to live out a dream, the dreams of others are just as achievable.

Having fought through losing his father, Charles, in 2017, to a heart attack, Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken on the role of being the family patriarch, something that his father recognized and appreciated before he passed away. Through supporting his family, Giannis is able to take on that role that he embodied back in Greece, and his lofty NBA status makes that a worthwhile cause.

Currently on the third of four years of his current deal, which was for four years and $100 million at the time it was signed, is at the front of the minds of every single Bucks fan all across the world. With the opportunity to sign a super-max deal that would equate to five years and $254 million guaranteed, the largest contract in NBA history, the opportunity for MKE to lock down their star for the prime of his career is staring them right in their face.

An outside team could only offer Giannis 4/$188M, which is still obviously a ton of money but not even close to the $250M+ that he would get if he were to stay in Milwaukee.

Giannis has never been about money, and that mantra has made him and his family reap all of their benefits to this day. Coming from a very tough situation in both Nigeria and Greece, the Antetokounpos have been destined to reach the ‘made-it’ moment for them, and Giannis looks to have achieved that moment for them – and then some.