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Before Basketball, Greece Showed No Love to Giannis Antetokounmpo

When Giannis Antentokounmpo was drafted in June, many believed that he was a huge star in Greece.

When Giannis Antentokounmpo was drafted in June, many believed that he was a huge star in Greece. But as it turns out, despite being born there, before he became a star, Greeks never claimed him or his family as their own.

From On Milwaukee:

"Giannis, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex were all born in Greece, but as children of Nigerian immigrants they were never recognized as Greeks. Nothing was ever steady, certain. They faced evictions, moved from place to place. They had survived together as a family, the boys selling sunglasses, hats and bags on the street. Veronica babysat, Charles worked as a handyman. Once Giannis and Thanasis picked up basketball, they shared the same shoes.

"They wanted a better future and a better life," Giannis said of his parents. "They say, to come to Greece and have a better life. Even coming to Greece, they didn't have a better life. Life was still difficult. My mother is 50 years old. And my father, too. For 50 years old, life was difficult for them."


There was no bitterness in his voice, which falls out in a steady, monotonic treble.


"For 20 years they were illegal," he continued. "It's very hard to live for 20 years without papers. Very, very hard. You have children and you have to go out and work without papers. At any moment, the cops can stop you and say come over here and let me send you back to your country.

His coach believed that Basketball was the only way that he would become a citizen.

"If Giannis was an Einstein or a scientist, he would not be getting Greek nationality because there are 100,000 kids, at least, with the same problem," Velliniatis said. "Because basketball is the national sport here, those kids got to overcome the legal difficulties. The problem still stays for 100,000 kids trapped. It's correct to say this because Giannis was the exception."


Talk about a story of struggle. Despite becoming a citizen months ago, some people in Greece still feel that he doesn’t belong in Greece and that he should be deported.  Now that Giannis is in Milwaukee starting his NBA career, him and his family won’t struggle anymore. We have always heard about International players that have dealt with war in their native country, but racial inequality is something new.

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