Money Smart Athlete Blog

Inspirational Athletes: Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak

Jan 4, 2023 | Inspirational Athletes

By Vasilia Polycarpou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy

Giannis Antetokounmpo, known to many as the Greek Freak, a professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA, has a life story which seems a lot like an inspirational tale. Giannis has managed to inspire crowds and win them over not only with his phenomenal performance on the court but also through the way he managed to defy all odds, come out of extreme poverty and rise to the top.

With parents who emigrated to Greece from Nigeria and who did not have steady jobs, Giannis grew up, selling things on the streets on a daily basis to help his family survive and pay rent.

Following in his parents’ footsteps, which were former athletes in Nigeria; his father played soccer and his mother was a high jumper; Giannis got involved in basketball, even though he had no prior experience and it wasn’t his dream sport. His coach, who saw great potential in him, due to his physique, got him on the team by telling him that if he tried his luck with basketball, he could make money to buy food. And this is how the journey of one of the greatest basketball players began.

When Giannis first started playing in basketball games, there were times him and his brother Thanasis could not play together as they had to share the same pair of shoes. When Giannis was checking out of the game, he would give his shoes to his brother.

In 2013, Giannis was drafted to the NBA, managing to become an NBA title-winning champion with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, as well as accruing a list of honorary awards, including being a two-time league MVP in 2019 and 2020 and a finals MVP in 2021.

He is also expected to line up for Greece in the FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifying matches, and could be the flag-bearer representing Greece at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Being among the top 10 highest paid players for 2022-2023, for the second straight year, Giannis is the only one of NBA’s top earners who is still in his 20s. The 28-year-old, who had the film Rise, released about his life on Disney+, also has multiple brand partnerships, including that of luxury watchmaker Breitling, as well as a long-term deal with Nike Inc., in addition to his very own signature sneaker line. Antetokounmpo has also invested in and is a brand ambassador of a telemedicine platform, Antidote Health, whose mission is to provide affordable healthcare via telemedicine.

Further to his athletic accomplishments and extraordinary sports performance, Giannis is often cited as a source of inspiration for his authentic character, ethos and his generosity; always trying to give back and contribute to the community and those in need.

Paying tribute to his roots, Giannis and his brothers launched a basketball academy in Greece, the AntetokounBros Academy. The academy aims to provide opportunities to underprivileged young adults and children, encouraging them to get involved with sports and offering them with a hot meal; aiming to break the cycle of poverty.

Moreover, in 2018, Giannis partnered with the Milwaukee Bucks and Pick ‘n Save to donate $50,000 worth of food to charities in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving, where he was witnessed at local food banks actively handing out meals.

Furthermore, another charitable act Giannis and his family were involved in, was the donation of 20,000 protective masks to the neighborhood where they grew up in Greece, in 2020, in the fight against COVID-19.

All in all, Giannis is the ultimate example of an athlete who inspires and motivates those around them not just with his athletic achievements but also with who he is as a person beyond sports. The story behind the athlete is what makes him even more inspiring, as well as the way he handles his stardom; being humble and never forgetting his roots. Giannis’ story gives people hope that despite the struggles and hardships of life, dreams do come true if you have faith and put in the hard work.

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