Giannis flying Greece’s flag in the NBA
AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris takes a look at a recent ESPN feature about Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo…
As if the pressure of being a franchise player wasn’t enough, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo also has the responsibility of flying Greece’s flag in the NBA – something that has never quite happened despite the rich history of Greek basketball.
A recent article by ESPN’s Nick Friedell captured the importance of Antetokounmpo not to the Bucks organization – that’s already well-documented – but to the Greek diaspora that flocks to arenas across North America to catch a glimpse of their hero.
Of course, Antetokounmpo’s legacy as a player has yet to include success with the Greek National Team, but when the 22-year-old leads his Bucks team to town there is no shortage of Greek pride in the arena.
From the home of the Bucks in Milwaukee, to the large Greek communities of Boston, Chicago, and Toronto, Greeks flock to arenas just to catch a glimpse of the best Greek export to reach the NBA.
In his article, Frieddell documents the trip the Seremetis family made to Brooklyn, New York to see Antetokounmpo and the Bucks battle with the Brooklyn nets at the Barclays Center.
The Seremetis family is just one example of countless Greek families to make the trek to their local team’s arena to catch a glimpse of the “Greek Freak” and perhaps walk-away from the arena with a memento to remember the occasion.
Of course, Antetokounmpo realizes his duty off-the-court as he greeted fans post-game on numerous occasions – not to mention the countless photos and autographs.
It’s a responsibility that makes Antetokounmpo so unique as an NBA superstar. Although Antetokounmpo is a Milwaukee Bucks player for the foreseeable future, there is no doubt that everywhere he goes he also bares the responsibility of playing for a nation; playing for Greece.
Playing for a country can’t be said about the majority of superstars in the NBA. Not about Lebron James, or Stephen Curry, or James Harden – hint: the list goes on.
The man known to many as simply Giannis has embraced his role as somewhat of an ambassador for Greek basketball and culture as he looks to carve out a legacy as one of the best-ever to suit-up in the NBA.
There have been many Greek basketball players to reach the NBA before Antetokounmpo, including a member of his family, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who now plays for Panathinaikos back home,
What’s different about Antetokounmpo in comparison to those who came before him, is certainly his impact on the court – but his conduct court also makes him a more marketable star for Greece.
While previous NBA draft picks from Greece, like Antonis Fotsis, Vassilis Spanoulis, and Nikos Calathes have gone on to enjoy memorable careers in Greece, none of them made an impact in the NBA like Antetokounmpo has.
Perhaps what’s the most-exciting part of the Giannis Antetokounmpo story is that it’s just the beginning. At just 22-years-old, there is still a long way to go for one of the NBA’s most bright stars, and with the growth of his game continue to grow at an exponential rate, it will be even more exciting for the Greek diaspora to watch Antetokounmpo’s progress on this side of the Atlantic.