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Greek Freak

By: Stephen Chen

There is a famous sentence in the book To Helen written by Allan Poe: “The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Roma.” It’s true. Ancient Greece and Roma were the most influential countries in Western civilization and history. Therefore, when Europeans talk about Greece, they often see it as their hometown and birthland. More and more tourists come to this legendary country to stare at the civilization in aww.

But this country, which has thousands of years of culture, still deals with intense social issues of racism. Unfortunately, racism took a toll on the life of one of the most famous NBA players, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greek Freak), an African immigrant to Greece from Nigeria.

A name can tell an interesting story of a person’s life. The family name, Antetokounmpo, which is a common last name from his father’s hometown in Nigeria, means the King from overseas. His first name, Giannis, is a really normal name in Greece. His father wanted him to be accepted by Greek culture and society, so his father named him Giannis. Because of the length of his name, Chinese fans have nicknamed him “Alphabet”. Despite his normal first name, basketball is the biggest factor that let Giannis become accepted in Greece.

Giannis seemed to be genetically destined to be a great player. His father was a former Nigerian football player, and his mother was a high jumper. How can’t he become an excellent player with the perfect genes? According to information from NBA, he was about 10cm taller than average when he got into the association.

But Giannis wasn’t always accepted or celebrated in Greece. Forced to make a living, his family had moved to Greece in 1991 before Giannis was born in order to get better study in Greece. But life couldn’t improve much due to their status as illegal immigrants. All of them were considered to be foreigners who have usually been attacked by racist militants, just because of his hometown, Nigeria, a country where he has never been before. After school, he needed to learn Nigerian education at home and helped the family make profits from selling CDs, and DVDs in the streets with his elder brother. However, this identity between Greece and Nigeria made him hard to accept by these two groups of people.

Each child in poverty wouldn’t lose any opportunity to become rich, that was exactly what Giannis did. He joined a high school with the support of a coach who found his talent. Then he played many basketball games and got a lot of training. Even today, he is still working on training his body and muscles to keep his good form. From a new, thin, and even underrated player to a pro, Giannis experienced a lot. With his help, his team Milwaukee Bucks got the second NBA final championship in 2021.

The story is going to finish, but Giannis’s life will never stop. Hope he can get better and better on the big stage of the NBA.

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