Giannis Antetokounmpo’s path to the NBA has not been easy, but his family has been with him every step of the way. Giannis’ parents, Veronica and Charles Antetokounmpo, moved from Greece to the United States after their son was drafted by the Bucks. Giannis also has four brothers: Kostas, Francis, Thanasis and Alexis.
Giannis helped clarify his nationality in an interview with The Undefeated’s Marc Spears. “The Greek Freak” is originally from Athens, Greece but his parents are from Lagos, Nigeria.
“Obviously, a lot of people don’t know where I’m from,” Giannis told The Undefeated. “A lot of people think my mom or my dad are from Greece, but no. Both of my parents are black. Both of my parents are Nigerian.”
Giannis’ brothers, Kostas and Alex, are also great basketball players. Alex will be part of the 2020 class and plays for Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Giannis embraces both his Greek and African ethnicity.
“It doesn’t matter what people may believe because of my nickname,” Giannis noted to The Undefeated. “There were a lot of times when I was in Greece where people said, ‘You’re not Greek. You’re Nigerian because you’re black.’ But then there have been a lot of times where it’s been the opposite, where people say, ‘You’re not African. You’re Greek. You’re ‘The Greek Freak.’ ’ But I don’t really care about that. Deep down, I know who I am and where I am from. That’s all that matters to me.”
Learn more about Giannis’ family.
1. Giannis Almost Left the NBA to Move Back to Greece When His Family Had Difficulty Securing Visas
Giannis may be one of the best players in the NBA, but there was a time when he almost left the United States to go back to Greece. After Giannis was drafted, his family had difficulty getting visas to come to America. The documentary Finding Giannis detailed how difficult it was for the Bucks star to be away from his family. Giannis contemplated leaving the NBA.
“That was the most stressful thing for him and for me as well because I know how much he wanted to have his family there with him,” Giorgos Panou, Giannis’ agent in Greece, said in the documentary. “Back here, we were trying to apply for American visas. We were stressed because the law said if you were declined three times, it’s done. It was declined once. Second time, again declined. And then he started calling me, ‘Giorgis, if that’s going to happen a third time and they cannot come, I am leaving.'”
Fortunately, the visa situation eventually was resolved, and Giannis’ family was able to come to the States to be with him. This helped jumpstart the transition process for him in the NBA.
2. Giannis Is From Greece But Faced Discrimination As the Son of Nigerian Immigrant Parents
Giannis may go by the name “The Greek Freak”, but there was a time when he faced discrimination in Greece. As the son of Nigerian immigrant parents, Giannis was at risk of being harmed by militant groups as The New York Times detailed.
Yet for most of his life growing up in Greece, Giannis Antetokounmpo was considered a foreigner. As the son of African immigrants, he was perpetually vulnerable to attacks by racist militants, and to threats of deportation to Nigeria, a country he had never visited.
3. Giannis’ Brother, Kostas, Was Selected in the Second Round of the 2018 NBA Draft
Giannis’ brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, was selected with the No. 60 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Kostas was originally drafted by the Sixers in the second round but was traded to the Mavericks. He was a two-way player for the Mavs, meaning he spent time in both the NBA and G-League.
Kostas averaged 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this season for the Texas Legends in the G-League. He played in two NBA games this season for Dallas, scoring one point in each contest. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle spoke about what Kostas needs to improve to see extended minutes.
“He needs to develop that consistent motor,” Rick told ESPN. “His brother is a great example of that. Kostas has made significant improvements, particularly over the last few weeks, and that’s one of the reasons he’s on this trip. He’s earned it.”
Kostas played one college basketball season at the University of Dayton. He averaged 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks during the 2017-18 season.
4. Former NBA Great Hakeem Olajuwon Shares the Same Nigerian Tribe as Giannis’ Family
Giannis shares a Nigerian connection with former NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem told The Undefeated that he and Giannis come from the same Nigerian tribe, Yoruba. Hakeem noted the Antetokounmpo last name originally meant “the crown has returned from overseas.”
“I know from his last name that we are from the same tribe, the Yoruba tribe,” Hakeem noted to The Undefeated. “His last name, which in Yoruba is spelled Adetokunbo, means ‘the crown has returned from overseas.’ I’m sure Nigerians are very proud of him, especially because of the way he has conducted himself and how he is dominating the league. He has accomplished a great deal in such a short period of time.”
5. Giannis’ Dad, Charles, Died From a Heart Attack in 2017
Giannis dad, Charles, was a professional soccer player in Nigeria. Charles and Veronica moved to Greece in 1991. They would later move to Milwaukee to be with Giannis.
It’s been a year daddy, so many things have happened since the day you left for a better place and I know you been watching down on us with a smile just like the one in the picture. I think about you every single day and I miss you very much but September 29th is not going to be a sad day in my calendar but a day that I cherish what a great father and role model me and my brothers have in our life. I love you very much. Your son Original