Childhood & Early Life
Giannis Antetokounmpo was born on 6 December 1994, in Athens, Greece. His parents had immigrated into the country from Nigeria, in 1991. Before migrating, his parents entrusted their eldest child, Francis, under the care of his grandparents.
Giannis has one more brother elder to him, Thanasis, and two younger brothers, Kostas and Alexis. Giannis and three of his brothers did not qualify for receiving Greek citizenship, their birth in Greece notwithstanding. In fact, even after turning 18, he remained a stateless person as he neither had Greek nor Nigerian citizenship.
He remembers his parents struggling very hard to make ends meet and support a family of eight. On most days, he and his older brother, Thanasis would report for practice on a near empty stomach, in a field close to the modest neighborhood of Sepolia where the family lived.
A club instructor recalls a 13-year old Giannis and his brother playing with a football and was not very interested in dribbling with a basketball. The brothers could not socialize freely with other children in their neighborhood and locals as they spent their growing up years, constantly living in fear of being deported by the police.
Spiros Velliniatis, the club coach who mentored other children in the Sepolia locality, realized that although Giannis was not good at basketball, he had the mental toughness and determination to excel in the sport. Antetokounmpo admitted in an interview that the real credit for his success and rise to stardom should go to Velliniatis.
The then Filathlitikos coach, Panagiotis Zivach, recollects luring the brothers to present themselves for regular basketball training sessions by promising that he’d find employment for their parents. A restaurateur, Giannis Tzikas who was their neighbour, chipped in by preparing sandwiches for the youngsters so that they could practice on a full stomach.
Giannis and Thanasis began practicing basketball from 2007 onwards after Zivas, the general manager of Filathlitikos, assisted their parents in finding jobs. He also helped the brothers financially so that they could fulfill their commitments to the basketball club.
Later on, the family shifted to a locality close to Filathlitikos that made it very convenient for Giannis to train consistently. After practicing for two years, Giannis was selected as a member of Filathlitikos’s youth team in 2009 which marked the onset of his professional career.
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Early Professional Career
Giannis Antetokounmpo represented the youth team of Filathlitikos for three years, from 2009 to 2012. He excelled in every quarter of the game and helped his side win numerous fixtures. In one game, he notched up 50 points which caught the eye of several managers of eminent basketball clubs in Europe.
Antetokounmpo became a member of Filathlitikos’s senior squad in 2012, representing the club in the Greek A2 Basket League for the 2012-13 Season. In the same year in December, CAI Zaragoza, a Spanish club entered into a 4-year contract with him that included a NBA buyout stipulation for each season.
His contract with CAI Zaragoza was due to start in the 2013-14 season. During the 2012-13 Greek A2 League playoffs, he maintained an average of 9.5 points in at least 26 games with 1.0 block, 1.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds in every game.
He qualified as a singular participant for the ‘Greek League All-Star Game’ in 2013.
Becoming the Star Player of Milwaukee Bucks
On 28 April 2013, Giannis qualified for the NBA drafting for the 2013-14 Season. He was selected in the very first round of the draft, ranking 15th overall amongst all eligible draftees of Milwaukee Bucks. He was signed up as a new recruit for the Bucks’ on 13 July 2013.
He took the field in 77 matches for Milwaukee Bucks in 2013-14 and maintaining an average of 6.8 points throughout the season. He was the top ranking NBA rookie for the season finishing the year with 61 blocks that made him eligible for the NBA All-Star Weekend ‘Rising Stars Challenge’ held at New Orleans.
His impressive performance at the ‘Rising Stars Challenge’ playoff earned him a position in the 2nd team of the NBA All-Rookie lineup, where each squad has five players. Additionally, Milwaukee Bucks extended their contract with Antetokounmpo for two more seasons, 2014-15 and 2015-16. His average peaked at 27 points in his second year as a rookie.
On February 9, 2015, he earned his first ‘player of the week’ honor and was adjudged the ‘Eastern Conference Player’ for his stellar performance in fixtures from 2nd to 8th Feb 2015. That year, he participated in NBA All Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest organized in New York.
For the 2014-15 Season, Giannis achieved an average of 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds from 81 appearances, missing only one game. The Bucks’ who were ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference playoffs during Giannis’ second year with the club, lost their first round elimination match to Chicago Bulls.
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His pact with Milwaukee Bucks was again carried forward for the 2016-17 Season. He started his 2015-16 campaign on a good note, bettering on his scorings of past two seasons, upholding a consistent average of 16 points for every game for the first 20 fixtures.
On February 22, 2016, for the first time in his career, he notched up double figures scoring 10 assists, 12 rebounds, and 27 points during the tie with Los Angeles Lakers which Milwaukee Bucks won 108-101. At the age of 21, he also created a record by becoming the youngest Bucks’ team member to score a triple double at 21.
On 13 March 2016, he became the first player in Milwaukee Bucks history to earn four triple doubles in one season with the fourth triple double coming in the game against Brooklyn Nets. He notched up a 5th triple double on 1st April 2016, in the game against Orlando Magic which Milwaukee Bucks won, 113-110.
Giannis inked 4-year extended contract with Milwaukee Bucks worth $100 million on 19 September 2016. In the opening game against Charlotte Hornets on October 26 which Bucks lost, he scored 31 points, a career achievement for him. His sixth triple double was recorded during the match with Orlando Magic that his team won.
He was again felicitated as the ‘Eastern Player of the Week’ in December 2016 for his appearances from November 28th to December 4th. His 2nd triple double for the 2016-17 season (and 7th overall) was accomplished in the game against Portland Trail Blazers on 7th December which Bucks won.
After recording 25 points against New York Knicks on 6th Jan 2017, Giannis became the 2nd Bucks player to register a minimum 20 points in 14 successive games, equaling Michael Redd’s record set in 2006.
He was selected to start the ‘2017 NBA All Star Game’ as a member of the Eastern Conference’s All-Star squad.
On 19th February 2017, Giannis Antetokounmpo made history by becoming the sole player from Bucks’ to be selected as an All-Star squad member after Michael Redd. Following his selection as a starter in an ‘All Star Game’, at the age of 22, he became the youngest basketball player to do so in club franchise history.
Giannis also became the first and only Greek NBA All-Star player to start an All-Star game. He was designated ‘Eastern Conference Player of the Month’ in 2017 on 3rd April for all his appearances in the month of March which was a career first for him.
He became the 4th Bucks player to be selected as ‘Eastern Conference Player of the Month’ after Sidney Monicrief, Terry Cummins, and Michael Redd. After achieving his 3rd triple-double for 2016-17 on 10th April 2017, he matched Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s record.
He became the fifth player in the history of NBA to lead Bucks in the statistical categories of points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Also, his unprecedented achievement made him the first NBA player to rank within 20 in every major statistical category in a normal season.
He became the first Bucks player to be honored with the ‘NBA Most Improved Player Award’ for the 2016-17 Season. He continued to play a significant role as a Milwaukee Bucks team member, maintaining his spell of robust performance.