The incredible journey of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP who lived in fear of deportation

Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the greatest story ever told in the history of basketball. An extraordinary journey that has taken him from the streets of Athens, where he used to bring scarves, watches and other trinkets to help his family, to lift the NBA Finals MVP award. And his coronation, in tune with his physique, has been colossal: 50 points in the game that gave the Bucks the title 50 years later. He is the sixth player to reach that figure in a Finals game.

The Greek forward was born in Athens on December 6, 1994, the son of Nigerian parents who arrived in the country illegally . For many years, the family was undocumented and lived under threats of deportation and poverty . There were days when, in that very modest house, the refrigerator was empty. Food often depended on what the Antetokounmpo offspring ( Francis, Thanasis, Giannis, Kostas, and Alex ) could sell on the streets.

But basketball changed his life. In 2007 he started playing and his progression was unstoppable. That boy long as a reed has become a superhero. Over the years, the bleachers of the Zografou Indoor Hall , a pavilion 20 minutes from the center of Athens, used to be crowded with NBA scouts . They flocked to analyze the game of a kid whose last name would be difficult to spell. He was 18 years old, he was 2.07 meters tall, his wingspan was 2.20 and he played base . He was a sensation despite playing for the Greek second division team Filathlitikos , with whom he had averaged 9.5 points, five rebounds and one block. The League saw his potential and chose him to play the All Star.

One of those who was able to see him live then was Willy Villar, sports director of Zaragoza , a club that signed him a contract for four seasons in December 2012, shortly after he turned 18. “I had seen a video of Giannis last summer and wanted to go watch him live. We did a two-hour private practice and in the afternoon we saw him at a juniors game. While he was playing, I sent a message to my president. I said that my legs were shaking. In my life I had seen something like this “ , says who is now in the offices of Herbalife Gran Canaria . The boy had amazing physical conditions and a great ability to read basketball.

Stardom … and racism

But Antetokounmpo never got to play in Zaragoza. He was chosen by the Bucks in 15th place in the 2013 draft . In Milwaukee they considered letting him on loan for a season, but decided that they would be the ones who would polish the diamond. They paid compensation to the Maño club and took a player who, despite not making great starting numbers, already left the NBA universe amazed by his conditions. That same year, Greece gave him nationality . That, however, did not prevent him from suffering a racist incident. “If you give a chimpanzee a banana and a Greek flag at the zoo, does that make him Greek?” asked Nikolaos Michaloliakos , party leaderGolden Dawn .

Giannis was the most improved player in 2017, the year in which he played his first All Star . None have been lost since and took the MVP this season . He was named the best player in the NBA in both 2019 and 2020. He was the best defender last season. He is now an NBA champion and has received the MVP of the finals . Only Michael Jordan has racked up as many individual accolades as the Greek forward, the boy who probably didn’t know the greatest player of all time when he was helping his family by selling through the streets of Athens. An amazing trip .

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