Giannis Antetokounmpo, 24, was born in Athens, Greece, to parents Charles and Veronica, who emigrated to the Mediterranean country from Nigeria. He and three of his four brothers — Kostas, Alexis, and Thanasis, were raised in Athens. Their oldest brother, Francis, was raised in Lagos, Nigeria, left behind with his grandparents.
Nicknamed the “Greek Freak,” Antetokounmpo started playing basketball in 2007. After becoming eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft, he inked a deal with his current team, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Antetokounmpo has had the support of his family throughout his career.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. They Are Greek & Nigerian
Charles and his wife, Veronica, moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to Athens, Greece, in 1991. They left their first-born son, Francis, with his grandparents and sought a better life 3,600 miles away. Once in Greece, Charles and Veronica welcomed three sons, Thanasis, Giannis, Kostas, and Alexis.
Antetokounmpo is very proud of his heritage; he went to school in Greece and adopted the Greek culture at a very young age.
Interestingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t become a Greek citizen until 2013, as his parents weren’t Greek citizens.
In 2017, a comment made by a Greek professor named Evangelos Markopoulos sparked some serious controversy. Markopoulos took to social media to call Antetokoumpo a “black guy pretending to be Greek,” according to the National Herald. The chatter caused a bit of an uproar but soon died down.
2. Charles Antetokoumpo Died in 2017
Charles Antetokounmpo died in 2017. According to the Greek Reporter, Charles died suddenly after suffering a suspected heart attack. He was in Milwaukee at the time.
“[Charles] Antetokounmpo was admitted to a Greek hospital 10 days ago complaining of intense chest pain. Doctors thought it was necessary to undergo detailed laboratory testing, and he was subjected to coronary angiography,” the outlet reported.
Charles’ funeral was held in the United States. His five kids traveled to Milwaukee for the services.
“There was never a day in my life that I called him and he wasn’t there for me. I could be sitting on the couch being lazy and then I’d ask him to get me some food. And he’d always be, ‘Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do it for you.’ Always at the game, never missed a game since the day that he came here. And he was happy. Really happy. For all of the kids,” Giannis told the media after his dad’s passing.
“It’s tough. Losing someone you love is tough. Losing someone who’s been there since Day 1. Especially for our family, because we’re so close. Day by day, we’re getting better. It’s OK to be sad. We loved our dad. My mom loved her husband. But at the end of the day, I think, he did what he was supposed to do in this world. He had five kids and raised us right. That’s the most important thing. I hope one day when I leave this world too that I can leave to my kids the impact that my dad is leaving now,” he added.
Charles was just 54 years old.
3. They Had a Tough Time Finding Work in Greece
Things weren’t always easy for Giannis and his family. In fact, his parents struggled to find work and keep the family afloat while living in Athens. The two would pick up random jobs here and there to try to keep food on the table.
“Sometimes, our fridge was empty. Some days, we didn’t sell the stuff and we didn’t have money to feed ourselves,” Giannis told the New York Times in a 2013 interview.
Although Giannis and his brothers had to start working at young ages, they learned very valuable lessons — especially from their dad.
“He just wanted us to be happy. That’s it, that’s it, to be honest with you. He never cared about nothing else. No material stuff. I tried to buy my parents a car last year. He told me, ‘No, I don’t want one.’ He never asked for nothing. He was just happy seeing me at All-Star, seeing my older brother [Thanasis] play for the Euro championship, seeing my younger brothers growing up. He was just full of joy,” NBA.com quoted Giannis as saying back in 2017.
The family caught a bit of a break in the late 00s when Giannis started playing basketball for Filathlitikos. Those associated with Greece’s semi-pro basketball league were able to help Giannis’ mom find work, according to the New York Times.
4. Charles Was an Avid Soccer Player & Veronica Was a High Jumper
Athleticism definitely runs in the Antetokoumpo family. Charles was an avid soccer player — as was his dad — and Veronica was a high jumper. Although Charles was hoping that his boys would follow in his footsteps and get into soccer, he ended up being totally cool with their decision to fall in love with basketball.
“When I decided to not to become a soccer player, he was sad. But he wanted to do something to help us. We did a lot of soccer footwork drills and ladder drills. He used to take us to the soccer court and getting us in stance, moving our feet. Now, he’s not sad. Now, he’s like thank god,” Giannis told NBPA back in 2016.
5. Two of Their Others Sons Also Play Basketball
Giannis’ younger brothers also got into basketball — and they are all pretty good.
His brother Thanasis also played for Filathlitikos, and their younger brother, Kostas, joined in 2013. Thanasis inked a deal with the New York Knicks after being drafted 51st overall in 2014. Kostas played college basketball for Dayton before eventually signing with the Dallas Mavericks. Alexis seems to be going in the same direction as his older brothers, already a standout on his high school team.
The oldest Antetokounmpo son, Francis, played football in Nigeria, before moving to Greece where he continued to play football — and take up basketball.